While reports of long-lines and problems operating voting equipment abounded in the Atlanta area Tuesday, the primary elections in Franklin County had few problems, local elections officials said.
CARNESVILLE – While reports of long-lines and problems operating voting equipment abounded in the Atlanta area Tuesday, the primary elections in Franklin County had few problems, local elections officials said.
“I think it’s gone really well,” Elections Supervisor Gina Kesler said Tuesday evening. “I knew it was going to be a learning process on Election Day.”
Tuesday’s election was the first to use a new voting system chosen by the state of Georgia.
The new system uses a touchscreen to mark a ballot that is then printed out and scanned to be cast.
A couple of Franklin County’s precincts reported problems with some printers.
At least two printers had to be replaced at the Southwest Franklin preceinct in Sandy Cross.
That caused a slight delay as the last voter cast a ballot in Southwest Franklin around 7:45 p.m., Kesler said.
Kesler said there was some “trial and error” in getting poll pads – tablets used to check in voters – up and running Tuesday morning as well.
Election workers will use the information they learned about the system Tuesday in order to prepare for November’s general election, Kesler said.
Tuesday’s election saw a heavy turnout.
A total of 6,496 voters cast ballots between the Republican and Democratic primaries and non-partisan election.
With 15,100 registered voters in the county, the total turnout was about 43 percent.
The turnout was greater than the same primary in 2016, when about 3,200 people voted.
Of those casting ballots in this year’s primary, 3,203 voted by absentee.
Because the state wanted to cut down on the number of people going to polling places during the coronavirus pandemic, absentee applications were sent to every active voter in the state. Every voter, active or inactive, in Franklin County received an application.
Those paper ballots piled into the Franklin County Elections and Registration Office for weeks, with the last ballots emptied from a dropbox at the office at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Because of the number of absentees, the Franklin County Board of Elections began processing and scanning them last week and finished counting the last few shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Another 1,023 votes came to the elections office to vote early in person.
Things did not go as smoothly in other parts of the state.
Voters and local officials reported issues with using the new $104 million voting machines and the ability of short-handed volunteer poll workers to troubleshoot problems as voting lines stretched at polling places from Atlanta to Savannah.
State elections officials warned ahead of Tuesday lines and wait times would be longer as polling places space people six feet apart, take time to clean voting areas and use fewer voting machines to limit capacity.
But technical issues seen in some areas like Atlanta and Savannah were unexpected, compounding already long lines.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger traced problems to “a lack of training and planning” by county elections officials, noting most of Georgia’s 159 counties were not experiencing technical issues with voting machines. Counties like Cobb, Richmond and Muscogee were running smoothly, he said.
State Democratic leaders called for Raffensperger to take more direct action to patch any problems with training or equipment prior to elections set for later this year including the Nov. 3 general election.
“The Secretary of State’s job is to provide adequate support and training for counties as he implemented Georgia’s new voting system, and he has failed,” said Maggie Chambers, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Georgia.
And Georgia House Speaker David Ralston ordered a lawmaker-led investigation into the “unacceptable deficiencies” of the primary that aims to look at more than poll workers, who he said “do not deserve to be blamed for systemic problems beyond their control.”
“The legislative branch of government has an obligation to go beyond the mutual finger-pointing and get to the truth,” Ralston said.
Beau Evans of Capitol Beat News Service contributed to this report. Capitol Beat is a statewide news service funded by the Georgia Press Association.