In spite of long delays, these two Latinos and a Black mother and son showed up to cast their ballots. This is what their experience at the polls was like.
GEORGIA — As Georgia’s primary election results continue to filter in, one thing is clear: The pandemic, long lines, and broken voting machines did not stop people, particularly the Latinos and Black Americans that we spoke to, from turning out.
“Yes, my friends and I voted today, and I did see a good amount of Latinos in line,” 27-year-old Atlanta resident Brian Núñez told The Americano. Many, however, were told “to vote provisionally or by emergency paper ballots,” Núñez added, “because of the long lines and technical difficulties.”
The overwhelming issues prevented some voters from sticking around. A few of the counties that experienced problems on Tuesday included Dekalb, Clayton, Fulton, Gwinnett, and Whitfield County, which has a large Latino population.
“Many of the people in line could not wait for more than an hour, so they couldn’t vote because most wait lines were two to five hours,” Núñez said.
Aschia Perry, 39, told The Americano that she waited almost three hours in Cobb County to cast her ballot. After serving in the military for more than 20 years — where she often voted absentee — Perry, a Black woman, was eager to cast her ballot in person.
More importantly, she wanted to do so with her son. “This was my son’s first year [voting] so I wanted to share that experience with him, as opposed to him doing absentee,” Perry said. “I wanted him to actually get that experience.”
But waiting as long she did has her concerned about what voting will be like in November. “This many people turned out and it was just a primary? I can only imagine what it’s going to be in November,” she said.
Perry plans to vote early for the general election. “My son got the experience, I’m good to go,” she said.
Vote.org CEO Andrea Hailey tweeted Tuesday evening that they had received several “disturbing reports on a variety of voter issues coming out of the state of Georgia.”
“Some haven’t received their ballots,” Hailey said. “Others had polling places close or open late. And worse, the Secretary of State’s website is down.”
“What we’re seeing is the direct result of lack of preparation for voting during the worst pandemic of our lifetime combined with active and pervasive voter suppression.”
Last year, a study led by Keith Chen of the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that voters in Black neighborhoods waited longer to vote than those in white neighborhoods in the 2016 election.
Since 2010, Gov. Brian Kemp — previously Georgia Secretary of State— admitted to doing away with “1.4 million voters from the rolls, including more than 660,000 Georgians in 2017 and almost 90,000 in 2018″ because he claimed they were inactive.
But voting rights advocates blame him for suppressing the votes of low-income Black communities.
Stacey Abrams, Kemp’s 2018 gubernatorial opponent, wrote a book about the issue of voter suppression titled Our Time is Now. In it, she writes, “Voter suppression works its might by first tripping and causing to stumble the unwanted voter, then by convincing those who see the obstacle course to forfeit the race without even starting to run.”
Gigi Pedraza, executive director at the Latino Community Fund in Georgia, said that aside from long lines and broken machines, she noticed voting files to be incorrect.
“In our board, we have 12 people, and I know three of them were wrongly categorized as Black, and they are not Black,” Pedraza said. “They are Hispanic, and they never changed their ethnicity.”
While their ethnicity was incorrect on their voting file, it did not affect their ability to vote.
She added, “My husband is Puerto Rican, and he has never identified as Black. But when we checked his file, he was categorized as Black.”
Despite the problems at the voting booths, Pedraza said she witnessed many Latinos voting and were encouraged to remain in line. Voting advocates were handing out water and snacks to those waiting for their turn.
Pedraza said that some Latinos were more enthusiastic about voting this time around because they’re tired of being left out of the conversations and policies shaping the country.
“We have seen this in the past few weeks with the coronavirus outbreak: how immigrants, in particular, and Latinos at large, are not included in the design of recovery, so they are very interested in making their voices be heard by voting.”
“Even in the rain, people were still there,” said Perry, the Cobb County voter.
“Nobody left out of line. Everybody stayed in line the entire time—people pulled out umbrellas, people pulled out ponchos.” It was really encouraging, she added.
According to USA Today, more than a dozen civil rights organizations, including the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and the League of Women Voters, wrote to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, urging him to extend the voting cut off time.
Late last night, Black Voters Matter tweeted that they helped a voter who left their polling site at 12:37 a.m. “We were able to make sure voters and their rights were protected and provided food, water, masks, and hand sanitizer to those waiting to cast their vote.”
LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, told Politico it took her and her nephew close to six hours to be able to cast their vote at an Atlanta polling place. “We have got to stop making voting a traumatic damn experience for black voters. Everything has to be a traumatic experience. The secretary of state needs to resign. … They always blame it on local officials.”
Raffensperger said Tuesday that his office would open an investigation into voting delays.
“The voting situation today in certain precincts in Fulton and DeKalb counties is unacceptable,” Raffensperger, a Republican, said, according to CNN. “My office has opened an investigation to determine what these counties need to do to resolve these issues before November’s election.”
Additional reporting by Kimberly Lawson.