Politics

Machine Malfunctions, Long Lines Cause Election Headaches In Ga.

Atlanta voters wait in line on Election Day next to unused machines as the precinct switched over to paper ballots after a judge ordered the polling location to remain open until 10 p.m., a full three hours after polls closed statewide. Technical glitches and long lines were reported Tuesday.
Atlanta voters wait in line on Election Day next to unused machines as the precinct switched over to paper ballots after a judge ordered the polling location to remain open until 10 p.m., a full three hours after polls closed statewide. Technical glitches and long lines were reported Tuesday.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

Election Day came and went in Georgia, with uncertainty remaining over clear victors, but also technical glitches and long lines.

In Fulton and Gwinnett counties, voting was extended two hours at six precincts, and provisional ballots were still being verified through 8 p.m. Friday in DeKalb County.

Election Day

When she went to cast her ballot at Avondale High School in DeKalb County, Ellaree Yeagley said the ID scanners during the check-in process were not working, and the card she was given to insert into the machine was not working correctly.

“I went up to the machine, and I put the card in the machine, and it immediately rejected it,” Yeagley said. “And it kept rejecting it.”

A poll worker told her it was showing she already voted.

“And I said, ‘I promise you, I swear to you, I have not voted,’” Yeagley said.

Forty-five minutes later, poll workers were able to clear her voting record so she could vote. But she says the whole experience left a bad taste.

“I don’t feel at all confident that my vote counted,” Yeagley said.

Long Lines

She said other Georgia voters told her they had the same issue on Election Day when she shared her story on social media.

There were many reports of people waiting in line for four hours to vote, due in part to machines malfunctioning, leaving people unable to vote at all.

A line backs up into a parking garage outside a polling site on Election Day in Atlanta. (David Goldman/Associated Press)

NPR political reporter Ayesha Rascoe asked President Donald Trump specifically about these problems in Georgia a day after the election.

Rascoe: “As president of the United States, are you concerned about the access that people are having to voting?”
Trump: “I heard it was very efficient in Georgia. I heard it was very efficient.”

The machines are nearly two decades old, and Brian Kemp, the former secretary of state who has declared himself Georgia’s governor-elect, was working on bringing in new machines. He launched the SAFE Commission in April 2018.

And experts agree that Georgia’s voting machines are vulnerable and outdated. Political science professor Trey Hood is also affiliated with the MIT Election and Data Science Lab in Cambridge.

“This technology is running on a Microsoft platform that’s not even serviced anymore by Microsoft,” Hood said.

State lawmakers are planning to install new machines that provide a paper receipt. The Secretary of State’s office tested out a hybrid electronic and paper system in Conyers last year, but Hood said the state needs to act faster.

“It has to be certified. There’s got to be money appropriated,” Hood said. “It’s got to be distributed. Local election officials have to be trained. Voters have to be introduced to it. The time to do that is now.”

Especially, he said, if the state wants voters to experience fewer technical problems during the next federal elections in 2020.

Michael Kang, an elections expert at Northwestern University, said elections haven’t “exploded” quite yet because of voting machines with outdated technology, but he expects it could happen soon.

“All of the people who really know the technology are warning people like me it’s bound to happen because the machines are really outdated and vulnerable,” Kang said. “I’m not sure, having spent the last several days talking to lots of different people in election law, why there’s not more political momentum for making our elections safer and more secure. I really don’t get it.”

Note: This report has been updated to correct the spelling of Ayesha Rascoe’s name.

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