Black Georgians Get Special Preview Of '2020 Voter Suppression: The Movie'
WXIA-TV video screenshot

Georgia's primary election Tuesday was, to the surprise of no one, a complete clusterfuck, as voters in primarily African-American parts of the state encountered long lines, waits of up to five hours, and endless problems with the state's brand-new voting machines. Nse Ufot, executive director of New Georgia Project, said in a text to Politico that all over Fulton County, some machines were down altogether, other sites had long waits for tech support, and voters had trouble logging into the machines. "It's a hot, flaming, fucking mess," she said, although Politico daintily redacted that. And while voting was supposed to end at 7 p.m., many precincts in Atlanta had to stay open much later to accommodate all the people standing in line.

Many of the delays were caused by problems with the state's new $107 million election system; this was the first statewide rollout for the new machines, which use a touchscreen and a printer to print out paper ballots, which then have to get scanned. That ... doesn't sound efficient! The coronavirus pandemic also meant that there were fewer poll workers than needed. And wouldn't you know it, one way the state dealt with that problem was by consolidating precincts, which the AP notes "disproportionately affected neighborhoods with high concentrations of people of color," although some mostly white suburban areas also had long lines. To make matters worse, many polling places with balky machines also didn't have enough provisional ballots, if they had any at all.

As a preview of this fall's election in a state that's likely to be a key battleground for Donald Trump and Joe Biden, Republicans have to be delighted by the clusterfuck. The hashtag #VoterSuppression was flying around Twitter much of the day.

To help reduce lines at the polls during the coronavirus outbreak, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, had sent out absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in the state. And hooray, by Monday, 943,000 absentee ballots had been returned, a record in a state that usually only sees around 40,000 votes by mail. Except, oops, a lot of Georgians said they never received their mail-in ballot, so they went to stand in line. Gosh, how could that have happened?

At least Raffensperger had confidence in the new machines, even if many polling locations couldn't get them to work. He told the AP,

When these things arise, and it's really specifically in one or two counties ... it leads us back to the failure of the management of the county election directors in those counties. [...] It has nothing to do with what we're doing in the rest of Georgia.

Those counties cover the Atlanta metro area. Raffensperger further explained in a statement that

the "voting situation today in certain precincts in Fulton and DeKalb counties is unacceptable," and he added that his office has "opened an investigation to determine what these counties need to do to resolve these issues before November's election." He said other counties were "better prepared."

Yeah, why can't certain people understand simple technology, huh? He's speaking geographically, mind you, that's all.

Democratic state Rep. David Dreyer told the New York Times that training for poll workers was inadequate:

A training session for poll workers held Monday, Mr. Dreyer said, consisted of a one-hour training video provided by the secretary of state on how to use the voting machines — but "you needed an I.T. professional to figure it out."

Not that Raffensperger would take a bit of responsibility for the mess. He explained to the Times that the state doesn't run elections, the counties do, and it was the counties' responsibility to make sure they had enough poll workers, to replace older poll volunteers with younger ones who weren't afraid of the 'rona, and to order extra provisional ballots. Not his problem! "The problems in Fulton County are the problems with their management team, not with me," he said.

Hmm, that argument sounds awfully familiar. Maybe Raffensperger's son-in-law could insist that the state's ballot stockpiles are "ours," not the counties', and if they want ballots they should order them from China themselves.

LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, told Politico it had taken her three hours to vote in Atlanta. During early voting last Friday, her nephew had waited six hours to cast his ballot.

"We have got to stop making voting a traumatic damn experience for black voters. Everything has to be a traumatic experience," said Brown. "The secretary of state needs to resign. ... They always blame it on local officials."

Brown said she drove to a predominantly white polling place in the suburbs of Atlanta after leaving her voting site Monday and was near tears as she saw no line, and people easily walking in and out. "I come over to this side of town, and white folks are strolling in," said Brown. "On my side of town, we brought stadium chairs."

Fortunately, Donald Trump's campaign had an explanation ready for Georgia's utter breakdown in running an election: Blame voting by mail!

"The chaos in Georgia is a direct result of the reduction in the number of in-person polling places and over reliance on mail-in voting," said Trump campaign senior counsel Justin Clark. "We have a duty to protect the constitutional rights of all of our citizens to vote in person and to have their votes counted."

Yes, how very logical. Or maybe Antifa built the voting machines. Ha, we kid. As the Times points out, a lobbyist for Dominion Voting Systems, the company that got the contract, "has deep connections to Gov. Brian Kemp," and isn't that a coinkydink? The lobbyist dude, Jared Samuel Thomas, managed Kemp's 2002 campaign for state Senate, and served as Kemp's chief of staff when Kemp was secretary of state. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just how things work in Georgia, where Kemp also got to run the 2018 election for governor that he also happened to win.

Also, too, "Dominion Voting Systems" seems a little too on the nose. Just more evidence we're all caught in a bad simulation.

Kemp's opponent in that 2018 race, Stacey Abrams, who refused to concede an election that would have benefited from a UN monitor, called yesterday's voting "a disaster that was preventable."

It is emblematic of the deep systemic issues we have here in Georgia. One of the reasons we are so insistent upon better operations is that you can have good laws, but if you have incompetent management and malfeasance, voters get hurt, and that's what we see happening in Georgia today.

Abrams told the Times she'd had to vote in person — with a five-hour wait — because the return envelope for her absentee ballot arrived already sealed, and she wasn't able to steam it open. How's that for ballot security! Other Georgia residents, the Times adds, "reported requesting absentee ballots and waiting months for them to arrive — and some never came at all."

Fair Fight Action, the election reform group Abrams founded after 2018's electoral fuckery, is suing the state in federal court to demand significant changes to Georgia's voting, including federal supervision of Georgia elections under the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court in 2013 gutted the VRA's requirement that states with a history of discrimination pre-clear their election procedures (thanks again, John Roberts!), but the lawsuit argues that federal intervention is needed because Georgia has deliberately put in place discriminatory practices. That part of the VRA is still intact, but proving intentional discrimination will be difficult, since the state will argue that racial disparities in ease of voting just kind of happened, but nobody wrote "we will suppress black votes" in a memo, so everything's good.

Oh, yes, there were also some results in the election, although the votes are still being counted in the Democratic primary: Former congressional candidate Jon Ossoff has a big lead in the three seven-person (!) race to run against incumbent US Sen. David Perdue, but as of this morning, he still doesn't yet have over 50 percent of the vote, so there may have to be a run-off.

During which the voting machines may become self-aware and launch a nuclear strike on Atlanta.

[AP / Politico / AJC / NYT / AJC / AJC]

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