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Pelosi: Georgia primary 'disgrace' could preview an election debacle in November

Pelosi: Georgia primary 'disgrace' could preview an election debacle in November
© Bonnie Cash

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFive big takeaways on the Capitol security hearings Curator estimates Capitol art damage from mob totals K Democrats want businesses to help get LGBT bill across finish line MORE (D-Calif.) charged Thursday that the polling problems dogging Georgia's primary elections this week were part of a broader Republican effort to suppress the vote around the country.

"What we saw in Georgia the other day was shameful," Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. "It was either a disgrace of incompetence, or a disgrace of intention to suppress the vote."

The Speaker said the failing equipment and hours-long lines that plagued Tuesday's primaries in the Peach State — particularly around Atlanta, the state's largest city — are part of a larger "pattern" of election hurdles erected by GOP leaders "because they're afraid of voters."

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She also warned that similar incidents are likely to emerge in the general elections later this year.

"It looks like part of a pattern on the part of some to suppress the vote. And some have even admitted it. ... But it is also a prelude to what could happen in November," Pelosi said. "[It's] all part of the Republican playbook ... because they're afraid of the voters, they're afraid of the vote."

Georgia's primary elections on Tuesday quickly descended into chaos in parts of the state, as a combination of failed voting machines and fewer polling sites — a precautionary measure amid the coronavirus pandemic — led to hours-long lines at polling stations in and around Atlanta.

The state's Republican leaders, who had adopted new equipment following reports of irregularities and voter suppression in the 2018 midterms, have blamed the troubles on county officials, while also vowing to investigate the situation.

Democrats and voting rights activists, meanwhile, maintain that state officials simply didn't take the necessary steps to ensure the elections ran smoothly amid the public health crisis.

“Let’s all work, hope and pray that this is not a preview of November,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) tweeted Tuesday night.

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Pelosi is using the fiasco to press Capitol Hill Republicans to approve billions of dollars in federal funding for states to establish health-conscious voting systems before November, including vote by mail.

Congress has already provided $400 million for that purpose, as part of a coronavirus relief package adopted in March, but Democrats have put the cost of creating a universal vote-by-mail system at $4 billion. The difference, $3.6 billion, was included in an emergency relief package adopted by House Democrats last month, but Senate Republicans have refused to take it up.

That, Pelosi charged, is a recipe for chaos in November.

"It's absolutely essential to our democracy that we remove obstacles to participation," she said. "Now even more so when it is a health issue."