Georgia officials launch investigation into election day chaos amid voter suppression concerns

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) vowed to launch an investigation into the chaos during Tuesday's primary elections that saw long lines and confusion in parts of the state. 

“The voting situation today in certain precincts in Fulton and Dekalb counties is unacceptable,” Raffensperger said in a statement. “My office has opened an investigation to determine what these counties need to do to resolve these issues before November’s election.”

Tuesday’s elections saw one of the first major tests for Georgia’s new voting systems, which were bought by the state following a federal ruling last year that required Georgia to phase out paperless voting machines by 2020. 

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Many voting issues on Tuesday stemmed from these new machines, provided as part of a multimillion dollar contract with Dominion Voting Systems. 

“Obviously, the first time a new voting system is used there is going to be a learning curve, and voting in a pandemic only increased these difficulties,” Raffensperger acknowledged. “But every other county faced these same issues and were significantly better prepared to respond so that voters had every opportunity to vote.”

Kay Stimson, the vice president of government affairs at Dominion, told The Hill that the company had a “command center” in Georgia and had “teams deployed around the state” to respond to any reported issues with Dominion equipment. 

“Right now we have nine support tickets that are open. We’ve closed 44 tickets today,” Stimson said on Tuesday afternoon, noting that the “majority of counties” reported at least one problem with the machines. 

Many of the reported concerns were in Fulton County, which encompasses much of central Atlanta. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) tweeted at one point that “NONE of the machines” in one precinct were working.

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Stimson said that one issue in Fulton County stemmed from the delivery of “poll pads” used to check voters in and pointed to issues with “consolidating polling places last minute” due to changes from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Raffensperger announced the investigation in the midst of strong criticism from officials, including former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisNAACP seeks to boost Black voter turnout in six states Biden touts Trump saying Harris would be 'fine choice' for VP pick Kamala Harris: The conventional (and predictable) pick all along MORE (D-Calif.), that the confusion was leading to “voter suppression.”

“Voting machines down. Limited provisional ballots. Hours-long lines,” Harris tweeted. “#VoterSuppression is happening right now across Georgia, particularly in Black communities. We can't let this happen in November.”

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog report raises new questions for top Interior lawyer | Senate Democrats ask Trump to withdraw controversial public lands nominee | Border wall water use threatens endangered species, environmentalists say Watchdog report raises new questions for top Interior lawyer Trump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter MORE (D-Ore.) also described the chaos in Georgia as voter suppression, calling on Republicans to support moving to mail-in voting. 

“Voters in Georgia are facing outrageous voter suppression resulting from years of election system sabotage by Republican lawmakers,” Wyden tweeted. “If Republicans actually wanted you to vote, they would support #VoteByMail and hand-marked #PaperBallots.”

Nancy Abudu, the deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), described the elections in Georgia as “a self-inflicted mess.” She added in a statement that the SPLC was “working with partners and determining the full extent of systemic problems and irregularities with the goal of every eligible voter having their ballot count.”

Democratic Party of Georgia spokeswoman Maggie Chambers on Tuesday harshly criticized Raffensperger and other state officials for the breakdown in voting. 

“So far this Election Day we have received countless reports of widespread voting issues in every corner of the state, and this is not limited to Fulton County or the metro area alone,” Chambers said in a statement. “The Secretary of State’s job is to provide adequate support and training for counties as he implemented Georgia’s new voting system, and he has failed.”

The Georgia Republican Party pushed back, instead directing blame at Democratic Fulton County officials and saying officials were “woefully unprepared” to hold elections on Tuesday.