Voters in Georgia faced hours-long lines on Monday as people flocked to the polls for the first day of early voting in the state, which has developed a national reputation in recent years for voting issues.
Eager voters endured waits of six hours or more in Cobb County, which was once solidly Republican but has voted for Democrats in recent elections, and joined lines that wrapped around buildings in solidly Democratic DeKalb County. They also turned out in big numbers in north Georgia’s Floyd County, where support for Donald Trump is strong.
At least two counties briefly had problems with the electronic pollbooks used to check in voters. The issue halted voting for a while at State Farm Arena, in Atlanta. Voters who cast their ballots at the basketball stadium, which was being used as an early voting site, faced long waits as the glitch was resolved.
Adrienne Crowley, who waited more than an hour to vote, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution there wasn’t anything that would make her get out of the line to vote. “I would have voted all day if I had to.”
Elsewhere in Atlanta, some voters reported waiting more than 10 hours for their chance to cast an early ballot.
Voters began lining up outside polling stations in the predawn hours, some using their cellphone flashlights to help other voters fill out pre-registration forms, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Janine Eveler, the elections and registration director for Cobb County, said the county had prepared as much as much as it could, “but there’s only so much space in the rooms and parking in the parking lot.”
“We’re maxing out both of those,” she said. “People are double parking, we have gridlock pretty much in our parking lot,” she added.
Hundreds of people slowly moved along a line that snaked back and forth outside Cobb’s main elections office in a suburban area northwest of Atlanta. Good moods seemed to prevail, even though some people said at 1pm that they’d been waiting for six hours. A brief cheer went up when a pizza deliverer brought a pie to someone in line.
Steve Davidson, who is Black, said the late US congressman John Lewis and others had fought too long and hard to secure his place at the polls for him to get tired and leave.
“They’ve been fighting for decades. If I’ve got to wait six or seven hours, that’s my duty to do that. I’ll do it happily,” Davidson said.
Georgia is the latest state to see extremely long lines during the first day of in person voting. Election officials have also seen unprecedented voter turnout on the first day of in-person early voting in states like Virginia and Ohio.
With record turnout expected for this year’s presidential election and fears about exposure to the coronavirus, election officials and advocacy groups have been encouraging people to vote early, either in person or by absentee ballot.
Nationally, more than 9.4m people have already voted, an unprecedented number, according to data collected by Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida.
Democrats are trying to pick up a US senate seat in Georgia in a race, where the Democratic candidate, Jon Ossoff, is challenging the incumbent Republican, David Perdue.
Georgia has long been seen as a Republican bastion, but many believe recent demographic changes have made it a more competitive state. A recent poll shows Donald Trump and Joe Biden in a statistical tie in the state.