Chloe Mexile Benard got in line to vote in the Atlanta suburbs at 7:30 a.m. yesterday, according to The Guardian. She did not vote until almost noon.
Marneia Mitchell, a stationery designer in Atlanta, was starting her fourth hour of waiting in line when she told The Times, “It’s despicable.”
And Greg Bluestein, a politics reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, called yesterday’s primary elections in Georgia “like nothing we’ve ever experienced.”
In several counties around Atlanta, voting machines malfunctioned, and thin staffing because of the coronavirus left fewer poll workers to deal with it. As a result, many Georgia residents had to choose between enduring hours in line or losing their right to vote.
Yesterday’s problems were worse than usual — partly a result of recently bought voting machines — but were also part of a much larger issue. In no other affluent country do citizens regularly have as hard a time voting as they do in the United States. Most of our elections are held on workdays, and a shortage of election equipment and workers often forces people to wait in long lines.
The waits tend to be longest for African-Americans. One study of the 2016 election, using smartphone location data, found that voters in black neighborhoods waited 29 percent longer on average than voters in white neighborhoods.
And as was the case in the 1950s and ’60s, Georgia has again become a battleground over voting rights. In the 2018 midterms, the state had the country’s longest waiting times, according to a Bipartisan Policy Center analysis. Republicans in Georgia, who control most of the state government, have frequently opposed efforts by Democrats to make voting more accessible.
It was not fully clear why yesterday’s lines were worse in the Atlanta area than elsewhere in Georgia. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, blamed local officials — who are heavily Democratic — and said they had not properly trained election workers. Local officials, in turn, blamed him, saying he had not provided adequate training resources. Virus fears among election workers and high turnout, after George Floyd’s killing, may also have played a role.
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