Tuesday’s Election Day blog: Our reports from battleground Georgia

About two million voters are expected to cast a ballot today. That's in addition to the more than 3.9 million Georgians who voted early in person or by absentee ballot. Pictured are voters waiting in line during the June 9 primary. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

Hours-long waits dogged the first day of early voting in Georgia, conjuring up images of a June primary that saw voters waiting for hours to cast their ballot. But aside from storm-related outages that left some polling places in the dark last week, voting has been relatively smooth since then and a record-setting 3.9 million people have already voted in Georgia. Still, with 2 million people expected at the polls today, the state’s top election official has warned that snafus are likely. Check back here throughout the day for the latest on how the long-awaited final day of voting is going in Georgia.

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3 weeks ago

11:17 pm

Dem-targeted state House race called in favor of Republican incumbent

By: Jill Nolin

At least one of the House races seen as competitive for Democrats will stay red, according to the Associated Press.

Rep. Rick Williams, a Milledgeville Republican, has beaten back a challenge from Democrat Quentin T. Howell. Williams, a funeral home director, was thought to be in a tough reelection battle, but he ended the night with 56% of the vote.

Democrats need to flip 16 House districts to gain control of the chamber for the first time in 15 years.

Last updated:11:19 pm

3 weeks ago

10:46 pm

Warnock turns his focus to a January runoff; Collins concedes

By: Jill Nolin

Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock has shifted his focus to a January runoff as one of the leading Republicans in the open primary conceded to sitting U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

Although a runoff was largely expected, Democrats had hoped to rally support around Warnock and push him to the 50% plus one vote needed to win the race outright in spite of the crowded field of 20 candidates. But as of 10:45 p.m., Warnock had about 29% of the vote with about 3 million votes counted.

Shortly after Warnock announced the race would go to a runoff, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins acknowledged defeat after a bitter intraparty contest. Collins conceded to Loeffler, who was appointed to the seat last year by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. The special election will decide who finishes the term of former Sen. Johnny Isakson, who stepped down because of his declining health.

Warnock criticized Loeffler and Collins for their opposition to the Affordable Care Act and the GOP-led Senate for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic relief.

“For the next two months, you’re going to see the petty and personal attacks that have become too much a part of the culture of Washington,” Warnock said in remarks over Facebook live at a little after 10 p.m.

“They’re going to try to distract us and divide us by making us afraid of one another, and here’s why: People who lack vision traffic in division. They cannot lead us so they will try to divide us. I submit that we’re all we’ve got. So, while they try to tear me down, I’m going to be busy trying to lift the families of Georgia up – because we’re all we’ve got.”

Last updated:10:57 pm

3 weeks ago

6:52 pm

Some polling places will stay open as voting winds down across Georgia

By: Jill Nolin

A judge has ordered all of Spalding County’s 18 polling places to stay open until 9 p.m. after technical problems delayed voting in the small county about an hour south of Atlanta.

Several other individual precincts around the state – from Houston County in middle Georgia to Cherokee County – will stay open a little later than the usual 7 p.m. cutoff, according to an update from Common Cause Georgia.

“These are solvable problems and they’re not anything more menacing than that,” Susannah Goodman, the group’s director of election security, said of the technical issues that arose Tuesday.

A busted pipe at State Farm Arena in Atlanta will also delay absentee ballot counting.

Last updated:7:03 pm

3 weeks ago

4:02 pm

Warnock teams up with Abrams to rally voters in Atlanta as runoff likely

By: Stanley Dunlap

Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said Tuesday that Raphael Warnock’s frontrunner status in an open primary for a U.S. Senate seat is evidence that the tide is now turning in Georgia. 

Former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams campaigns for U.S. Senate candidate Raphael Warnock on Election Day. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

The pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church is expected to face either U.S. Rep. Doug Collins or U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a January runoff. 

“When we finish today, the work continues,” Abrams said at an Election Day rally held for Warnock at Atlanta’s Coan Park. “Because we protest at the ballot box, we protest in the streets, and then we protest in the halls of power until we can demand what we deserve and that is justice.”

Several dozen Georgians, many carrying Warnock campaign signs and wearing T-shirts and masks with his name, soaked up Warnock’s message as they gathered at the border of Kirkwood and Edgewood neighborhood. 

“The joy comes in the morning and we are on the verge of morning in Georgia and the United States of America,” Warnock said. “That morning doesn’t magically appear. We all have to get up. We have to get to work.”

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Raphael Warnock met with voters around Atlanta during the final hours of voting Tuesday. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

The park also serves as a voting site where Tyshawn Arnold said he feels the momentum behind Warnock, Jon Ossoff and other Democrats will push them ahead of their Republican challengers. 

“We got too many problems here in Georgia and not enough (politicians) that will speak up for what’s right and us folks who don’t have as much power,” 31-year-old Arnold said.

Last updated:5:13 pm

3 weeks ago

2:47 pm

Top-of-ballot partisan frenzy fades farther down ballot for some voters

By: Ross Williams

When Faisal Raiz’ young children lost his mail-in ballot, he thought he would be in for a long line on Election Day. Instead he was in and out in only 15 minutes, even with the extra paperwork needed to void his lost ballot.

“I expected it to take a minute, but it was painless,” he said. “It was faster than a normal election.”

Volunteers said GraceLife Church in east Cobb said a line of about 60 people formed at the start of the day, but the poll workers were able to move them through quickly. By 11 a.m., there was no wait despite a steady trickle of voters coming in.

Faisal Raiz was able to vote in about 15 minutes despite having to void a lost absentee ballot. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Raiz, a Democrat, said he let out a sigh of relief when he scanned his ballot for former Vice President Joe Biden, but the presidential race was not the only one on his mind.

“It was the Senate, too, Ossoff was also a motivator,” he said. “And keeping Karen Handel out, making sure (Congresswoman Lucy) McBath gets reelected.”

Also on Raiz’ ballot was a tight Statehouse race between incumbent Democrat Mary Frances Williams and Rose Wing, former chair of the Cobb County Republican Party. Williams won her seat in the swing district in a close election in 2018, and she is in tough reelection battle to keep the seat in the Democratic column.

But for many voters like Raiz, down ballot races are not at the top of their mind on Election Day.

“For the smaller ones, I pretty much just always vote party line,” he said. “I wasn’t really that aware of state issues.”

Frank Beaullieu, another east Cobber, split his ticket but voted to keep President Donald Trump in the White House.

“I voted for Trump and mostly Republicans because I think the economy is as important as anything. Without a good economy, everything fails,” he said.

But Beaullieu too said he was not paying much attention to the bottom of the ticket and did not recall who he voted for in the House race.

“I really didn’t care about that,” he said. “Like I say, you’ve got some candidates that, the only time you hear about them is during the election, and then the rest of the time, they don’t do anything.”

A 2018 Johns Hopkins University survey found that 80% of Americans could not name their state legislator.

In phone interviews with the Georgia Recorder, Williams and Wing both said they were proud of their campaigns and volunteers, but they both said if they had a regret, it would be that they were unable to meet voters face-to-face as easily as in the past due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Williams said she and her volunteers have been working on getting her name out among constituents regardless of party.

“I have a message on my phone from a woman who said, ‘Thanks for helping me figure out the absentee ballot voting, I’ve just turned in my ballot for you, and I voted for you, and I voted for Trump,'” the Democratic candidate said.

“And I thought, ‘Wow, you don’t hear a lot of that.’ So I’ve tried not to worry so much about party but meet people where they are and answer any questions or concerns they have and keep it on that level, and it seems to have worked pretty well.”

Wing also said she misses being able to campaign door-to-door, but she and her team have been increasing their online presence and visiting local businesses to get her name out there.

“Social media is wonderful, I’ve done a lot of that,” the GOP candidate said. “And in areas where you can meet people and talk to people, because I believe in small businesses, as restaurants and businesses open up, I put on my mask and go out there to them and talk to them in the form of social distancing. I think that’s the main way, you do have to continue to reach out and make some form of contact with your voters.”

Last updated:2:51 pm

3 weeks ago

2:17 pm

Atlanta businesses board up windows in case of post-election rioting

By: John McCosh

Workers boarded up storefront windows along Peachtree Street and elsewhere in Atlanta Tuesday in anticipation that election night demonstrations could deteriorate into riots like the unrest in late May that caused millions of dollars in damage from downtown to Buckhead.

Workers board up the storefront of the Nike store at Lenox Square Tuesday morning. Several retailers from Midtown to Buckhead covered windows with plywood in areas that suffered vandalism in riots during late spring riots. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

At Lenox Square in Buckhead Tuesday morning, workers applied plywood to windows along the mall’s entrance. The Atlantic Station Target in Midtown Atlanta featured a new wooden façade on its windows Tuesday that was applied late Monday.

However, Atlanta police said Tuesday afternoon they are not aware of any specific threats or planned violence.

“At present, there are no verified threats to indicate that violent activity is being planned, said Officer Anthony W. Grant, public information officer for the Atlanta Police Department. “If activity begins to occur, APD is prepared to respond quickly to prospective protests or illegal and violent activity, in coordination with partnering local, state and federal law enforcement officials.”

Election security is led by state and county officials, Grant said in his emailed statement. However, the Atlanta Police Department is coordinating with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to provide aid at polling places and to provide support across the city should post-election protests or illegal activity occur.

“APD is monitoring real-time election day activity through our Joint Operations Center and will continue to monitor post-election day activity as warranted,” Grant said.

Last updated:2:18 pm

3 weeks ago

11:39 am

Some technical glitches greet otherwise smooth Election Day

By: Jill Nolin

A nonpartisan election watchdog group has reported some technical issues with poll pads in a handful of counties.

Aunna Dennis

Common Cause Georgia’s executive director, Aunna Dennis, said Tuesday morning that several counties – Burke, Bleckley, DeKalb, Chatham and Spalding – had reported glitches with their poll pads. She said the organization was still looking into whether the problem – which was due to a system update from the state – was systemic.

She said the snafu highlighted the need for having ample emergency back-up paper ballots on hand at each location. Common Cause Georgia pushed unsuccessfully for the state to provide enough paper ballots for 40% of registered voters on Election Day. As it is, election officials are required to have enough for 10%.

Dennis said some poll workers have also incorrectly told voters they cannot vote with an expired Georgia driver’s license (voters can). There are also reports that some poll workers have told voters they must bring their absentee ballot to cancel it and vote in person, which is not the case (although bringing the ballot can speed up the process).

“We have some things happening in Georgia, however we are still excited about today,” Dennis said.

But for the most part, voting in Georgia appeared to be going smoothly as of Tuesday morning.

Last updated:11:43 am

3 weeks ago

11:06 am

Candidates hit the campaign trail to rally Election Day voters

By: Stanley Dunlap

Jon Ossoff is among the candidates out making last-minute pitches to Georgia voters. The Democrat, who is a media executive, is locked in a close race with Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

“President Obama came to Georgia to rally yesterday because these are the closest races in the country and because the decisions that Georgians make whether to participate or not will affect the outcome, not just for our state but for the whole nation,” Ossoff said.

Last updated:2:19 pm

3 weeks ago

10:35 am

Loeffler pledges to back Collins if she comes up short after bitter contest

By: Ross Williams

Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler kicked off the last leg of her campaign the same way she has spent most of it, touting her outsider status and conservative voting record.

“Georgians know that they have a strong group of champions in Washington, being their voice every single day,” she said. “That’s why I’m encouraging Georgians to get out and vote. If you’re my voice today, I will be your voice for years to come.”

Sen. Kelly Loeffler spoke with reporters at Cobb County International Airport early on Election Day before jetting off to campaign stops around the state. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Loeffler spoke with reporters for about ten minutes at Cobb County International Airport Tuesday morning, the first of five stops across the state on the final day of voting.

Loeffler was appointed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson, but she faces a crowded field of candidates who all want to grab her seat. Most polls put Democrat Raphael Warnock in the top spot with around 40% of the vote, with Loeffler battling U.S. Rep. Doug Collins for second place among Republicans.

It is unlikely any candidate will receive more than 50% of the vote, meaning the top two vote-getters will all but certainly face off in a January runoff.

Loeffler expressed confidence in her ability to win over moderates in a two-person race without alienating her conservative base.

“The American dream, it lifts all Americans up, all Georgians,” she said. “It has nothing to do with party, but we have to stand up against socialism and socialist ideas. Things like high taxes, expanding government, excessive regulation, the Green New Deal that would not only bankrupt families but farmers. We have to make sure that our policies work for hardworking Georgians.”

Sen. Kelly Loeffler spoke with reporters at Cobb County International Airport early on Election Day before jetting off to campaign stops around the state. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

The race has at times felt like a Republican primary, with Loeffler and Collins battering each other over who has the more conservative record. But despite the bitter competition, Loeffler said she will support Collins should he win.

“I have been a conservative champion my whole life, I’m a lifelong Republican, I will support the Republican Party as I always have done,” she said. “But let me just say, I think we’re gonna win.”

Warnock is scheduled to make ten campaign stops around the Atlanta area on Election Day. Collins had no campaign events listed on his Election Day schedule before a 7 p.m. victory party in Buford.

Last updated:2:19 pm

3 weeks ago

10:09 am

Voters will also decide today whether the state House stays red

By: Jill Nolin

Much of the focus today is on Georgia’s 16 electoral college votes and whether Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats will stay in Republican hands.

But voters in several House districts across the state – from northern Atlanta suburbs to a sprawling south Georgia district – will decide whether the GOP will continue to control the state House of Representatives. The outcome will have major implications for redistricting next year.

For a refresher on what is at stake, check out our earlier report on the Democratic push to take over the chamber and what Republicans have done to try to maintain control. Democrats would need to flip 16 seats to turn the chamber blue.

Here is a look at the competitive House districts we are monitoring today.

Last updated:10:09 am

4 weeks ago

8:46 am

Cobb County voter says she waited till the last day of voting out of necessity

By: Ross Williams

Amanda Brickhouse of Kennesaw was one of the first people to arrive at Shiloh Hills Baptist Church in Kennesaw, arriving about 30 minutes before polls opened on a chilly November morning. She was the 25th person in line.

Voters who arrived early at Shiloh Hills Baptist Church in Kennesaw waited inside to stay warm until voting started in Georgia. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

“I actually thought that there would be a lot more people here at 6:30,” she said. “I thought I was getting here kind of late, actually. So I was surprised when I came in and we were able to wait inside and there were only 25 people here. It was awesome.”

Some Kennesaw voters said they didn’t want to give up the tradition of Election Day voting, but Brickhouse said she waited until the last day out of necessity.

“I tried to vote early in Marietta, and the wait was eight hours, so I just couldn’t wait,” she said. “I waited about three hours and had to leave to go to work. I tried again last week when the storms came, but some of the locations just weren’t functioning because poll workers couldn’t get there and whatnot from the storm. So I was just like, I’m going to wait until Election Day, and just try then.”

Brickhouse said she’s glad she did.

“This was actually the best option because it was the least amount of wait time I had to deal,” she said. “It feels awesome. I’m excited that I was able to vote. It’s worth the effort to try to vote a couple times, if you have to go back, if you can’t stay and wait the first time. I feel great. I feel like I contributed.”

As Brickhouse walked back to her car with her peach sticker, the line wrapped around the outside of the church and more voters began to pull into the lot.

The start of voting on Election Day is often when lines are longest, said voting system implementation manager Gabriel Sterling Monday.

“Generally speaking, it’s going to be opening that we’ve seen in the past. Lines build up before we even open the doors and people can get irritated with it,” he said.

Last updated:2:20 pm

4 weeks ago

8:04 am

Gov. Kemp receives his absentee ballot

By: Jill Nolin

Gov. Brian Kemp told WSB Radio this morning that he has an absentee ballot in hand and plans to drop it off today, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein.

Kemp’s office said Friday that the governor went into self-quarantine after a possible exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The governor and First Lady Marty Kemp tested negative for the virus.

Georgia Congressman Drew Ferguson, a West Point Republican who was at a Manchester political rally with Kemp, announced on Twitter Friday that he tested positive for the coronavirus as well.

Last updated:8:05 am

4 weeks ago

7:18 am

Lines are forming as the polls open in Georgia

By: Ross Williams

A line had already formed at Shiloh Hills Baptist Church in Kennesaw when the precinct opened at 7 a.m.

Last updated:2:20 pm

Jill Nolin
Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.