For The Record

Few hiccups reported in Georgia’s first big election since 2021 overhaul

By: - May 24, 2022 11:25 pm

On May 24, Clayton County Mount Zion High School held its primary election and graduation ceremonies, which by the evening was the main draw during a record statewide mid-term primary turnout . Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

A record number of Georgians were on track to have cast ballots for Tuesday’s Election Day, breaking 2018’s midterm primary record that sets up a repeat gubernatorial race between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. 

Election day ended with nine of the state’s 2,500 voting precincts extending their voting hours after delays that were caused by a wide range of speed bumps ranging from a power outage to tech problems with getting voting equipment that included poll pads used to check in voters in.

In Bibb, Gilmer, Chatham, DeKalb, Fulton, Cobb, and Gwinnett counties the delays kept polls open for less than an hour to give voters more opportunities to cast ballots.

After a record number of 860,000 in-person and absentee votes were cast in during early voting, Republican officials claimed that the results disproved the charges of voter suppression lodged by the Democratic Party and progressive groups after ‌the‌ ‌2021‌ ‌election‌ ‌overhaul. But Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor, dismissed the GOP’s argument as “correlation without causation.”

“We know that voter turnout is not proof that there isn’t suppression. It is the antidote to suppression,” Abrams told reporters Tuesday.

The GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger credited county election superintendent, staff, and poll workers with helping run a successful election in the wake of a pandemic and 2018 election that predicted what to expect over the next two cycles.

“We’re in a post-COVID environment and the counties also are prepared for big numbers,” Raffensperger said during Tuesday evening media briefing at the election command center. 

The so-called Election Integrity Act, Raffensperger said, also played a factor into the strong numbers, referencing the new law mandating an extra day of early voting while also adding a new ID requirement to vote via absentee ballots.

“It’s easier to vote in the state of Georgia as we’ve been saying for years now, we just made sure that we have the proper guardrails so it’s tough to cheat,” he said.

The voting period still sent a few voters scurrying. A condensed process of completing the U.S. Census combined with quick turnarounds combined with new redistricting maps leading into the primary led to scores of voters not getting updated district information time before going to the polls

That led to some voters showing up at polling places based on what’s on the state’s My Voter Page before finding out they were not at the correct polling place, said Harold Franklin, chair of Georgia Election Protection for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights 

In order to measure the lasting impact of the new voting law, it will be necessary to determine how many voters ended up not voting because they were barred from using provisional ballots‌ ‌before‌ ‌5‌ ‌p.m. on Election Day.

Voting‌ ‌rights‌ ‌groups‌ ‌charged‌ ‌that‌ ‌their strong organization efforts limited the detrimental effects of rules imposed in response to concerns about a stolen 2020 presidential election, including restrictions on absentee ballots and provincial ballots.

While‌ ‌a‌ ‌couple‌ ‌of‌ ‌Fulton‌ ‌County‌ ‌precincts stayed open later on Tuesday, Fulton County, which has been under scrutiny for a possible state takeover of its elections board, had relatively few problems on Tuesday and throughout‌ ‌early‌ ‌voting.

In spite of those hiccups, Fulton interim director of elections Naomi Williams said the election went smoothly on Election Day. More than 91,000 people voted‌ ‌during‌ ‌the early‌ ‌voting‌ ‌period.

Williams said so far the number of absentee ballot rejections related to the new absentee ID law has been minimal and that those voters are being notified to try to get it resolved. 

The top of this year’s ticket was highlighted by two Republican races in which Gov. Brian Kemp and former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker, as both were declared winners by the Associated Press for their respective primaries for governor and U.S. Senate. 

And while Abrams and Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock coasted through the primary, the crowded field of Democratic candidates bidding for secretary of state, lieutenant governor and attorney general, appeared headed to a runoff.

Georgia Recorder Deputy Editor contributed to this report. 

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.

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