When it comes to Fulton County turnout in the June 9 primary election, it’s looking like the tale of two counties, based on reports from multiple precincts.
At three polls in Buckhead and Sandy Springs, turnout has been somewhat slow but steady. But at other polls, such as downtown Atlanta’s Central Park, according to media reports, turnout has been higher, with long lines and voters even using provisional ballots due to problems with voting machines.
At Sarah Smith Elementary School in Buckhead, when a reporter arrived at 6:40 p.m., no voters were in line to check in and a dozen were either checking in, waiting to vote or voting. Poll Manager Steven Peterson said only about 900 of the roughly 7,900 registered voters there had cast ballots by then, but he was still pleased with the turnout.
“It’s been very, very nice,” he said, also praising his staff. “Everybody’s been doing a great job. The machines have actually worked perfectly all the way through.”
Peterson added he’s had no problems with voters abiding by the health and safety rules instituted due to the pandemic.
“Everybody’s compliant. Everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to do,” he said, adding his staff is cleaning the stylus pens and voting cards used by voters thoroughly after each use.
At Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Buckhead, when a reporter arrived at 2:28 p.m., there were 11 voters in line outside and another 20 waiting inside to check in, plus a dozen either checking in, waiting to vote or casting ballots.
Poll Manager Trent Allen said as of 1 p.m., 470 of the precinct’s 7,195 had voted on Election Day, adding the process had gone “really well” and reminded him of the gubernatorial general election in 2018.
Allen said none of the residents had problems using the new voting machines, and there were also no issues with voters regarding social distancing or other restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everyone’s been really good about (following the rules),” he said. “Most people have their masks. Of course, we have a lot of extra protective equipment (and) spray, we have everything for them. At the beginning and the end (of the line), we have hand sanitizers.
“I’m glad to see people coming out and getting their vote in, especially for a primary. It’s nice to see. I think there’s new fervor for people to get out and have their voice heard. Be patient if it is a long wait. Your vote will always count if you’re in line by 7 (p.m.).”
At the Church of the Redeemer in Sandy Springs, when a reporter arrived at 10:29 a.m., only seven residents were in line waiting to sign in before voting. Poll Manager Beryl Davis said only 257 of the precinct’s 9,741 had voted by then.
“We had a rush, a line this morning and a steady flow,” she said. “This is the slowest it’s been all morning.”
While residents across the county and state had to contend with not only using Georgia’s new voting machines and dealing with health and safety restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, residents voting at this precinct had to also deal with a precinct change. The county moved it from Highpoint Episcopal Community Church after its worshipping community closed in January.
At Central Park, voter Shannon Christian told Capitol Beat she was angered because Fulton elections officials appeared to be unprepared for the election. She said she was “outraged” as her wait in line neared three hours. A voter at the Cathedral of St. Philip said she had to wait two hours to vote.
According to Capitol Beat, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and Democratic Party of Georgia spokeswoman Maggie Chambers have called for an investigation into Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office for voting machine problems Raffensperger blamed on individual county elections officials.
Statewide, the complete results were not in as of June 11 at 9:30 a.m. because come counties were still counting the more than 1 million absentee ballots voters turned in, a record for the state, said Ari Schaffer, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office. He said in the last similar primary election in 2016, only about 37,000 absentee ballots were submitted.