Long delays and broken machines plague voters in Georgia

Voters in Georgia faced malfunctioning voting machines plagued with technical issues and long delays as they headed to the polls on Tuesday.

In the state where the Republican gubernatorial hopeful Brian Kemp is being sued for using his position as secretary of state to suppress minority voter registrations, reports have been emerging of technical problems and limited numbers of voting machines available in areas with high minority populations.

Throughout the morning, machines at four locations across Gwinnett County, northeast of Atlanta, temporarily stopped working, forcing the use of paper ballots and creating four-hour delays.

Problems started around 7am and were not resolved until around 11.30am ET.

“We’ve got people who are voting with the paper ballots, and we’ve got people who are standing to wait for the machines to be fixed, and we’ve got people who said they are planning to come back,” Gwinnett County spokesperson Joe Sorenson told the New York Times.

Elsewhere in the county, there are reports that voting machines were found to be without power supply and had “ran out of battery.”

At one of the affected stations, the polling manager did not offer paper ballots when the problem first arose and people were reported to have left without having cast their vote. The state Democratic Party urged those who had left to return and vote in a press conference that afternoon.

Formerly a Republican stronghold, Gwinnett County has been the focus of Democratic efforts to turn Georgia blue, the second largest county in the state with a majority nonwhite population.

In Fulton County, another part of the state with a majority black population, another problem was causing long three-hour delays—the limited number of voter machines deployed. At Pittman Park Recreation Center in Atlanta there were just three machines serving the whole precinct.

Civil right activist Rev. Jesse Jackson heard about the issues and made his way to the location in order to encourage voters to wait. He blasted the situation on Facebook as “a classic example of voter suppression, denying people easy access to exercise their right to vote.”

“I just want to tell the voters there that on behalf of me and my staff, we’re sorry for the mix-up,” Fulton County Elections Director Rick Barron said in a statement, announcing he’d send five more machines there.

In another Fulton County location, four machines crashed temporarily because of a power cord issue.

The problems, however, are receiving extra scrutiny because of Kemp’s record as secretary of state, which has been the focus of several investigations

In October the NAACP announced it was suing him after an Associated Press investigation found that his office had suspended more than 53,000 voter registrations, roughly 70 percent of which were from black Georgians. That ruling was overturned in court this week.

That same month, Rolling Stone published leaked audio from a campaign event in which Kemp expressed his concern that “if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote” his campaign might have a problem.

Kemp’s gubernatorial rival is Democrat Stacey Abrams, who would be the state’s first-ever African-American governor if elected.