ACLU of Georgia, voting rights groups say Tuesday’s primary was failure for voters

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Some voters in Chatham County had problems casting a ballot in Tuesday’s primary in terms of new voting machines. And in Georgia’s largest four counties near Atlanta, there were long lines in front of many polling places.

“Tuesday was a massive failure and countless Georgians were deprived of their constitutional right to vote,” says Andrea Young who is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia. “I’m proud of all the Georgians who waited in lines for hours but that should not be the way we run our elections.”

Young told us that prior to Tuesday, they had indicated concerns to officials in Fulton, Dekalb, Gwinnett and Cobb counties regarding their readiness. However, she says the state played a big part in all of this.

“Obviously, the Secretary of State chose to deploy machines across the state and so had an obligation to make sure that people had the training and the resources needed,” she said. “Suppression has the same effect, whether it’s incompetence or just intentional deprivation of the right to vote.”

Gabriel Sterling, who is the Statewide Voting Implementation Manager for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office told reporters Tuesday evening that the state had done its job in the sense that it had trained county employees.

“We train the trainers,” he said. “The counties are in charge of training the poll workers.”

Sterling said in “almost every case when our technician showed up (to troubleshoot a problem) it was a two or three-minute fix because the poll workers had not learned exactly what to do with this new equipment.”

Sterling acknowledged while there may have been difficulties in some areas, he said by noon on Tuesday, most issues with machines had been fixed. He also said for the most part, that problems were concentrated in larger areas, saying of 159 counties, 150 of them didn’t have that many problems.

Former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who founded the voting rights group “Fair Fight Georgia,” disagreed with the assertion the problems were not widespread.

“Unfortunately, the Secretary of State is now trying to shift the blame and he’s trying to create a
pretext that only a few counties are being impacted but that is untrue,” Abrams said Tuesday night. “Across the state of Georgia, from Morgan to Clay to Chatham (counties) we are seeing folks being denied the right to vote or who are asked to wait in line for hours.”

Sterling told reporters that things will be learned from this.

“We’re going to work hand in had with all the counties on training, training, training,” he said.

Young says that ACLU of Georgia is considering its legal and political options in the wake of voting issues. She also said she worries about the upcoming presidential election in November.

“This was sort of a rehearsal for November and in that election, many more people will turn out to vote,” Young said.

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