Georgia Senate Passed Legislation Months Ago Aimed At Reducing Voting Lines, But Is It Practical?

People wait in a line to vote in the Georgia’s primary election at Park Tavern on Tuesday in Atlanta.

Brynn Anderson / Associated Press

On Tuesday, voting lines in Fulton County and across many parts of Metro Atlanta stretched on and on and on forcing some voters to wait hours to cast their ballots.

Everyone agrees that the lines are a problem, but there’s less consensus on what to do about them.

When the Georgia House of Representatives reconvenes next week, it could consider a bill meant to reduce lines at polling places. Republicans and Democrats, however, are divided on whether it would actually work or lead to more confusion.

Senate Bill 463 proposes that if wait times at polls are longer than an hour, counties would be required to split those precincts for the next general election cycle, sending some voters to different polling places. Or, counties could provide more voting machines and poll workers.

The bill, which is backed by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, won Senate approval in March just 10 days after it was introduced. But the vote was partisan.

“Each and every Democrat state senator voted against taking action to fix the problem, solely because I and Republicans were proposing it,” Raffensperger said during a press conference on Monday morning inside the Georgia capitol.

Democrats say the bill was rushed and their input wasn’t included.

Sen. Gloria Butler, a Democrat from Stone Mountain said on the Senate floor in March that splitting precincts would mean some people who’ve voted at the same place for years, might be sent somewhere else.

“To us, it’s nothing if we have to go someplace else to vote,” Butler said. “Some people don’t have that transportation.”

Democrats also call it an unfunded mandate that would require the hiring of more poll workers at a time when bodies are hard to come by and county elections budgets are already stretched thin.

With just 11 days remaining in the session and with other priorities, like the budget and hate crimes legislation at the top of the agenda, it’s not clear if lawmakers can figure out a way to bring relief or whether voters will just have to wait.