ATLANTA — The long-standing dispute over voting rights and election security has come to a head in Georgia.
The state's messy primary and partisan finger-pointing offer an unsettling preview of a November contest when battleground states could face potentially record turnout.
According to The Associated Press, many Democrats are blaming Georgia's Republican governor, Brian Kemp, and Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, for hours-long lines at polling stations. Republicans are blaming local Democratic officials in Atlanta, particularly in areas with large numbers of racial minorities, which saw some of the longest lines in the state.
Georgia's Tuesday elections were plagued with a series of problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced the closure of dozens of polling stations across the state. Fewer polling stations resulted in long lines at stations that remained open.
The pandemic also caused an increase in requests for absentee ballots — which some voters claimed they never received. Some of those voters then stood in line for hours hoping to cast an in-person ballot, only to be told they could not because they had requested a mail-in ballot that they never received.
The election was further exacerbated by the use of new voting machines, which some precincts had trouble operating. Some polling stations had trouble turning on or logging into machines, and voters were forced to stand in line while workers waited for technical support.
As of Wednesday morning at 7:30 a.m. ET, many races of national importance were still too close to call, with only 24% of the state's 2,354 voting precincts reporting complete results. In the Democratic Senate primary, John Ossoff held 46% of the vote — short of the 50% he needed to win to avoid a runoff in August.
The election issues raise the specter of a worst-case scenario: a decisive state, like Florida and its "hanging chads" and "butterfly ballots" in 2000, remaining in dispute long after polls close.
That would give President Donald Trump, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, and their supporters a chance to offer competing claims of victory or raise questions about the election's legitimacy, further dividing an already roiled electorate.