SNELLVILLE, GEORGIA – Hundreds of voters in Gwinnett County, Georgia, a Democratic stronghold of predominantly minority voters, waited more than four hours to vote Tuesday because of malfunctioning electronic voting machines.
At Annistown Elementary School, a precinct serving a mostly African-American community in the town of Snellville, Jadana Donely said she arrived around 7:30 a.m., shortly after polls opened, but didn’t cast a ballot until close to noon. Donely said there was a lot of confusion when she got to the polling location about the reason for the long line.
“As soon as we walked through the door, it was just information that the machines were down,” the 45-year-old black voter said. “They didn’t go into specifics. And then maybe about 20 minutes in, then they said ‘Oh, the machine is not working’ … Then another 20 minutes after that, it was, ‘The cards are not working.’ And then it was, ‘OK, they have machines on the way.’ And then the machine that got here wasn’t working.”
The problems were resolved by around 11:30 a.m., but long lines lingered well after.
While Donely waited more than four hours to vote, her husband had to leave the line to go to work. He plans to return at the end of the day, but voting advocates expressed concerns that voters who left would not return later Tuesday.
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), a Democratic lawmaker who represents the district that includes Snellville, told ThinkProgress he blames Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp for the issues.
“This was definitely foreseeable,” he said. “It’s part of the last gasp attempts by Republicans to maintain their positions of privilege.”
Johnson said it’s not surprising that Kemp and his allies would make it more difficult for voters in Gwinnett County, a majority minority county, to cast ballots.
“This election is crucial,” he added. “We need every vote.”
Johnson and other local Democratic leaders held a press conference outside the polling location Tuesday afternoon, urging voters to do whatever it takes to cast their ballots.
When Jaime Winfree, a white resident of Snellville, heard about wait times of more than four hours, she brought her husband and two young daughters to the polling place to distribute cookies and water to people waiting in line.
“This is not an accident,” she told ThinkProgress. “I know of at least four majority-black polling places in Snellville that had machines that didn’t work for hours, and people left.”
Johnson said he heard of similar glitches at no fewer than four polling locations in Snellville. The same ballot machine issue that plagued Annistown Elementary also occurred at Anderson-Livsey Elementary School and Suwanee Library, both in Gwinnett County, county spokesperson Joe Sorenson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Across the fourth district we see … many voting precincts are having problems enabling the citizens to vote,” Johnson said. “We knew for the last three weeks that turnout was going to be heavy. And so, it’s important that the citizens not let these glitches defeat them.”
Kemp has repeatedly refused to add a back-up trail to Georgia’s voting system. Georgia is one of just five states that is not using paper ballots in the midterm elections. Voting advocates filed suit against his office, but a judge ruled in September that there was not enough time to change the process before the November vote.
In her ruling, however, the judge said the security concerns are legitimate and warned that “further delay is not tolerable” in “confronting and tackling the challenges before the state’s election balloting system.”
Johnson said he faults Kemp for the issues in Snellville, because of his refusal to “address the archaic nature” of Georgia’s voting system.
“The operation of these voting machines and the technology that supports it is his bailiwick,” he said.
“He has had adequate time to address the archaic nature of this process, and he’s failed to do so. He certainly doesn’t need to be the next governor.”
UPDATE: Democratic Party officials told ThinkProgress they won a court order late Tuesday, allowing the Annistown Elementary School polling location to remain open until 9:25 pm local time.