Express Poll Machines Slow Voting In Fulton Precinct

Issues at two of Therrell High School's four voting machines created long lines and long wait times.
Issues at two of Therrell High School's four voting machines created long lines and long wait times.
Credit Lisa Hagen / WABE
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Poll workers at Therrell High School said one of the location’s “Express Poll” machines froze throughout the morning. The machines verify voters’ IDs and pop out yellow ballot cards that people take over to the booths. Fulton County elections officials say the school was one of a handful of polling locations where express poll machines had to be rebooted.

Coupled with a separate issue over a voter’s identification there, two of the four ballot machines weren’t serving voters for at time. The result was long wait times and frustration for many who watched a trickle of voters fill up less than half the available booths for more than an hour.

“This is the heart of the black community in southwest Atlanta. This is ‘get out the vote’ country. When I tell you the black people who raised this city came from this neighborhood, and we can’t vote? That’s voter suppression, and I am pissed,” said Kelly Jackson, who felt strongly that the issues were more than a technical glitch.

Another voter, John Carmichael, was one of many who said they saw several people give up and leave without voting.

“People have to get their children to school. People have to get to work across town. They walked out,” said Carmichael.

Fulton County Chairman John Eaves said he got a call about the ballot machines and came down immediately.

“Ideally it would not have been an issue, but it is an issue and we’ve dealt with it, and it’s been resolved. Hopefully the better news is that 346 other precincts throughout the county will have no issues today and that’s my hope,” Eaves said.

A technician had gotten there and by 10 a.m. all the machines were working. Eaves said that was the only issue he’d heard of in Fulton that morning. At two other locations, Fulton County Director of Registration and Elections Rick Barron said two express machines of the approximately 650 in use throughout the county had to be replaced on Tuesday. He said one reason for the issue is the age of the machines: he said they’re more than 14 years old.

“It’s up to the state to purchase new equipment because the law says that state has to have a uniform voting system and my understanding is that Georgia wants to keep all this equipment till 2023,” Barron said. 

Donzaleigh Arrington also got stuck waiting to vote for what she says was an hour and a half. She was frustrated by the wait, but had other concerns motivating her, namely, Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District plan.

“Everybody’s been asking me about it because I work for the school system. Yes I do think we need changes in our schools, but I think it remains for the school system to make those changes and not the state,” said Arrington.

Voter Mary Dixon said she was excited to be voting for someone who could be the first woman president.

“She’s a strong lady. I haven’t seen her break — through all the controversies she’s been through, she’s maintained and stayed humble. And that’s very important to me,” said Dixon. She said she’d watched all the presidential debates and disliked the tone of the campaign, but was confident in a Clinton victory.

Susan Makrides, a voter at Peachtree Christian Church there, was not so hot on the Democratic contender. She’d shown up dressed in red with her “Make America Great Again” baseball cap on.

“Now that everything has come to light, it’s unbelievable really. Just the Clinton foundation, pay for play, all of that. The lies, the server. This web of lies she’s created, I mean it’s unbelievable how she can actually keep track of all her lies,” said Makrides. 

Barron said he had only received about 15 other complaints and said it was the “smoothest of all busy elections in Fulton County” that he has handled.

As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, Barron said more than 60,000 people had cast their ballots in Fulton County.

Tasnim Shamma contributed to this report

For more information on the 2016 election, visit WABE’s Election Center.

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