Problems with voting in last week’s elections raise more questions about the outlook for Georgia’s new system that includes paper ballots as demanded by advocacy groups. It’s clear there is much to be done before the Nov. 7 general election and investigations are underway to pinpoint the problems including long lines at the polls and difficulties by precinct workers in using the new touch screen equipment. Of immediate concern is making sure the Aug. 11 runoffs go smoothly.
The onus is on Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whose office oversees elections. Yet he minimized the scope of the problems, asserting that they occurred in some precincts in Fulton and DeKalb counties. “My office has opened an investigation to determine what these counties need to do to resolve these issues before November’s election,” he said. He promised to “work with our county elections boards and directors to train them to properly deliver, install and maintain our voting system,” emphasizing that the counties bear responsibility for proper delivery and installation of equipment and training poll workers.
Advocacy groups blamed Raffensperger, a Republican who took office last year, for the problems in the election. The Georgia Votes Coalition called on the secretary of state to “accept full responsibility for subjecting Georgia voters to chaotic and unacceptable voting conditions.” Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, said the secretary of state must resign, while Kristen Clarke of the Washington-based Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said “Georgia’s election was a complete catastrophe.”
Cobb Commission Chairman Mike Boyce weighed in, saying that fellow Republican Raffensperger “should resign over his handling of Tuesday’s primary election.” The chairman, who had a wide lead in incomplete returns in his reelection bid, defended local election officials. Boyce told the MDJ in an interview: “I have no confidence in this system, nor the leaders that are behind it.” He later said he would reassess his call for Raffensperger to resign if the secretary of state “accepts full responsibility and accountability for the problems with the voting system on Tuesday.”
Incomplete results from the primaries left some races undecided as election officials worked into the weekend. Among key races, U.S. Sen. David Perdue won the GOP nomination for a second term without opposition, setting up a contest in November with Jon Ossoff, who won the Democratic nomination for Perdue’s Senate seat. U.S. Rep. David Scott, the Democrat representing Georgia’s 13th District that includes portions of Cobb, defeated three challengers to win his 10th term. Karen Handel handily defeated four opponents for the Republican nomination for the 6th District seat held by Democrat Lucy McBath, who narrowly won over Handel in 2018.
Counting absentee ballots in Cobb proved to be a major challenge. Going into the weekend, up to 36,000 absentee ballots were still to be tabulated and the county Board of Elections and Registration moved its meeting to certify the vote from June 17 to June 19. As for who gets the blame, Cobb Republicans said results were slowed by a combination of factors including the coronavirus pandemic, sudden loss of many poll workers, the much higher number of absentee ballots and a learning curve on the new voting machines. Granted, those factors certainly had a big impact on Cobb’s vote counting and reporting of results. But the fact remains that there were also problems in other places that call for concrete steps by the secretary of state’s office. That’s where the buck stops. Raffensperger must come forward with a plan that works.
There is far too much at stake to not have all the problems corrected before the Nov. 7 elections. Georgia must do better.