WASHINGTON • Voters encountered long lines and problems with voting machines on Tuesday during a chaotic day of in-person balloting in Georgia, the latest American state struggling to conduct elections amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
State Republicans and Democrats traded blame for the difficulties, and the state’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said his office would probe problems in two counties that are Democratic strongholds in an effort to resolve the issues before the November general election.
The missteps in Georgia, which had delayed its primary from March, are likely to raise alarms about how well states will handle voting if the coronavirus is still raging when Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic contender Joe Biden meet in the Nov 3 presidential election.
Many voters complained of hours-long wait and voting machines that were not operating.
Mr Raffensperger said the problems were most acute in metropolitan Atlanta’s Fulton and DeKalb counties, although the Georgia Democratic Party said it received reports of problems “in every corner of the state”.
Local news stations showed there were still long lines in some Atlanta polling places at midnight. The primary was the first to use Georgia’s new voting equipment, which added a paper ballot backup.
Officials said there were reports some locations struggled to start the machines, did not receive the equipment necessary to begin on time or did not train election workers properly on handling them.
“I waited for three hours,” said Ms Callie Orsini, 26, who stood in line with hundreds of people in Atlanta’s Midtown neighbourhood on Tuesday. She said some people in line had requested absentee ballots but had not received them, and it took longer for election workers to process them.
Polling locations had been reduced in many counties amid a shortage of election workers because of concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.
About one million Georgians sent in absentee votes by mail, Mr Raffensperger’s office said, and another 325,000 already had cast ballots in person during early voting.
Mr Raffensperger called the voting situation in parts of Fulton and DeKalb counties “unacceptable” and opened an investigation. But Democrats said the responsibility belonged to Mr Raffensperger.
I waited for three hours.
MS CALLIE ORSINI, 26, who stood in line with hundreds of people in Atlanta’s Midtown neighbourhood to vote in Georgia’s primary on Tuesday.
Estimated number of Georgians who sent in absentee votes by mail.
Number of voters who had cast ballots in person during early voting.
The problems in Georgia follow similar complaints and confusion during an April primary in Wisconsin, and last week in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Washington DC.
Georgia was one of five states choosing candidates for the White House and Congress on Tuesday. Voters in Nevada, South Carolina, North Dakota and West Virginia also held primaries.