For the second time this year, Georgia voters are having trouble at the polls. It has become a yearly occurrence for photos and videos to emerge from Georgia showing absurdly long lines at polling stations and curious reports of broken machines or purged voter rolls only found in majority-Black counties.
But on Monday, those same reports emerged on the first day of in-person voting for the upcoming November 3 election. Hundreds of people took to social media to show that they had spent literally the entire day standing in line waiting to vote.
A spokesman for Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, told the newspaper that 1,602,352 people had applied for absentee ballots but just 439,018 of those requests were accepted. They did not explain why the other 1.2 million requests have not been approved.
Across the state, reports emerged of glitches and disruptions to the system. At State Farm Arena in Atlanta, there were problems with electronic equipment that caused lengthy lines and complaints from people waiting.
“We’ve seen over 10 counties where this is happening,” Aklima Khondoker, the Georgia director for All Voting Is Local, told the New York Times.
While early voting is going well overall, we are experiencing technical issues at @StateFarmArena that are causing delays in voting at that location. We apologize for the inconvenience. Technicians are onsite to help address the issue. Thank you for your patience.
— FultonCountyGeorgia (@FultonInfo) October 12, 2020
The Washington Post found that the longest lines were seen in Atlanta, Augusta, Savannah and Macon, Democratic strongholds and areas with large Black populations. Multiple voters told the newspaper that the lines only began to decrease when people gave up and left without voting at all. The problem was so bad that disaster organizations began handing out food to people who had been waiting in long poll station lines for hours.
PBS noted that many of the people who showed up on the first day did so because of the problems and long lines in predominantly Black communities of Metro Atlanta that occurred during the June 9 primary elections.
Despite the outrageous videos and photos emerging from Georgia, white critics across the country painted the long waits as a good sign for overall turnout numbers and lauded Black voters for their "resilience." But Black voters had a very different view of the situation.
Here is what some Georgia voters had to say:
Famous songwriter Johnta Austin shared a video of himself with dozens of other Black people, writing that they had spent 11 hours in line waiting to vote.
Now at 11hrs in line but we are next! A long journey but wouldn’t be anywhere else! Please vote everyone! pic.twitter.com/ifRcbK1XRm
— Johnta Austin (@johntalsr) October 12, 2020
And he wasn't the only one.
Some had to take videos because photos could not capture how long the voting lines were.
This is a picture of voter suppression. Why do Americans have to wait in lines this long? This is the line in Suwannee Georgia today to vote. pic.twitter.com/rHl4Gr5kEi
— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) October 12, 2020
I waited 5 hrs and 7 mins to vote early in #Georgia today. The line was crazy because it’s the first day of early in-person voting. But, it was worth it! #GeorgiaVotes
— Matt (@MrPruneJuice) October 12, 2020
Like many of the other videos of Black people spending all day in line waiting to vote, white reporters often tagged them with notes that they were "inspiring" and "heroes."
— Mark Elliott (@markmobility) October 12, 2020
A number of people were astonished that Georgia election officials would let something like this happen again after the exact same issues were reported in June when primary elections were held.
This line to vote is completely obscene and an affront to democracy. Georgia officials have known since their last shoddy election administration to prepare – yet didn’t. https://t.co/drfvgeLpK2
— Elise Jordan (@Elise_Jordan) October 13, 2020
Some began to speak out about the long lines and the general media response.
It’s not cute. At all.
So no, I don’t want to see any posts that praise folks, esp Black n brown folks, for waiting in them damn lines, without a heavy criticism – in the same breath- of the system that makes it damn near impossible for us to vote.
— winter breeanne (@WinterBreeanne) October 13, 2020
People were on lines so long that World Central Kitchen decided to jump in an provide food for those who had been waiting for hours.
In Marietta, Georgia the wait is already over 3 hours to vote as hundreds have lined up for day 2 of early voting. We will be bringing lunch for the community today to help keep everyone going & will keep serving into the night if needed! #ChefsForThePolls
— World Central Kitchen (@WCKitchen) October 13, 2020
They ended up serving food for nearly the entire day.
Night has fallen, but voting lines continue in Marietta, Georgia. The @WCKitchen team just finished serving dinner. They met someone walking out who arrived at 8am — he waited 12 hours to vote today. We must do better! Until then, #ChefsForThePolls will try to keep everyone fed. pic.twitter.com/RcnG8BFSWW
— Nate Mook (@natemook) October 13, 2020
Officials in Georgia dowplayed the long lines and disputed assertions that it was an attempt at voter suppression.
In an interview with WSB-TV, Gabriel Sterling with Secretary of State’s Office compared the long lines to "when Apple releases a new phone."
"If you show up the first day, you’re going to wait in line a minute,” Sterling said.
But voters interpreted the lines differently. Many of those who spoke to WSB-TV said they either did not trust Republican state leaders to count votes sent in through the mail and Sterling himself admitted that some of the lines were caused by malfunctioning equipment at voting centers.
NBC reported that a study done last year by the University of California, Los Angeles, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Chicago found that people living in Black neighborhoods waited nearly 30% longer to vote and were almost 75% more likely to have to spend more than 30 minutes on voting.
Another study from 2017 showed that non-white voters are seven times more likely to wait for more than an hour to vote compared to white voters, and Stephen Pettigrew of the University of Pennsylvania said this was because polling offices in white areas generally get more resources.
Willlie Purcell of Macon, Georgia, told PBS that he decided to come vote before election day because of the state's long history of intentionally keeping Black voters away.
“My intention was to be here when the door opens this morning, because there’s constant voter suppression that I am not going to stand for — and I am rallying everybody that’s in my family; my kids that are eligible to vote, I got them coming as well," Purcell said.
"If I have to pick them up and take them myself, I’ll even volunteer to drive people who don’t have a car. Whatever it takes to get people out to vote, that’s what I’m going to do.”