Georgia’s rollout of new voting machines went poorly in several counties Tuesday as poll workers struggled to use the new equipment.
Polling sites in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett counties experienced severe delays and long lines for residents attempting to vote in primary elections, the first state-wide contests using the new system. Many voters gave up early and went home without casting a ballot, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Georgia spent over $100 million transitioning to a new voting company, Dominion Voting Systems, late last year. The new system marked a return to paper ballots in the state for the first time in 18 years.
Statewide Voting Implementation Manager Gabriel Sterling said the delays were caused by poll workers being unfamiliar with the system and blamed leadership for not training workers adequately.
“So far we have no reports of any actual equipment issues,” Sterling said. “We have reports of poll workers not understanding setup or how to operate voting equipment. While these are unfortunate, they are not issues of the equipment but a function of counties engaging in poor planning, limited training and failures of leadership.”
Still, Georgia election officials appeared to dodge a mess like what happened in the Iowa Democratic primary in February where a series of mistakes and mishaps led to a nearly week-long delay in final results. Most in-person ballots in Georgia were counted by late Tuesday night.
Election results may take days to finalize, however, as Georgia election officials continue to count a record number of mail-in ballots. Over 1.1 million Georgians chose to vote by mail, an indication that many are still wary of the coronavirus that scientists have yet to find an effective treatment or vaccine for.
Iowa’s primary took place before state governors declared states of emergency over the outbreak of Covid-19 and instituted widespread shutdowns. The fiasco in Iowa began after Democratic election officials could not validate the results of county reports of votes. Multiple Democratic candidates and the Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez publicly rebuked the Iowa Democratic Party and called for a recanvassing of precincts.
Wisconsin also had trouble with its primary in early April after election officials failed to send out roughly 9,000 mail-in ballots to voters who requested them. The contest was an early test of state voting systems after the coronavirus outbreak began, and a record number of Wisconsin voters cast their ballots from home in response.
Wisconsin election officials missed sending thousands of ballots while others sent through a congested mail system never arrived at election headquarters to be counted. Many other ballots arrived at headquarters postmarked too late to be counted.
Wisconsin’s difficulties were a warning to other states holding primaries amid a pandemic to beef up their mail-in voting operations and systems in order to handle a record-breaking surge in absentee voting.
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