Georgia’s Election Meltdown Explained
By Evelyn Li
After the primary election in Georgia on June 9th, we now know what the worst case scenario looks like. A perfect storm created an election meltdown, where voters were subjected to confusion, exposure to the virus, and wait times upwards of four hours.
Georgia voters faced the set of problems present in other states’ elections during the COVID-19 era. People, rightfully, feared gathering at the polls, and the transition to vote-by-mail was messy, to say the least. Instead of automatically sending ballots to every registered active voter, the Secretary of State’s office chose to mail out absentee ballot request forms. Many applied for an absentee ballot but did not receive it in time to mail it back. Others never received their requested forms at all.
In Fulton County, which encompasses much of Atlanta and its suburbs and is the state’s most populous county, voters were told they could email requests for absentee ballots. But this process resulted in many applications being “lost”. The high number of requests froze email accounts and jammed printers. The election office was also understaffed after being hit by COVID-19. One Fulton County elections employee died and another was hospitalized. Even some voters who applied as early as April, such as state senator Jen Jordan, still did not receive their ballots before Election Day. And when absentee ballots did come in the mail, it appears that the vendor did a sloppy job. For example, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said she received a ballot that came with a return envelope that would not open. She tried steaming the pieces of paper, to no avail.
We do not know how many individuals failed to receive their absentee ballots and were either unable to or decided against voting in person. But anecdotal evidence suggests there were many, and their voices were silenced. Of course, thousands did choose to go to the polls, and the situation was similarly bleak. Early voting is normally a good option for people who want to vote while avoiding the hassle of Election Day. On the last day of early voting in Atlanta, however, waits were as long as eight hours — the length of an entire work day.
As in other states, Georgia suffered from a massive poll worker shortage. Fulton County was 250…