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A civic headache: Readers share their voting experiences

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Image courtesy of Matthew Rao.

By Derek Prall

While some had a relatively hassle-free voting experience, for many this year’s primary election was fraught with confusion and frustration abounded. From long wait times and mysteriously absent absentee ballots to technical difficulties and disappearing polling places, you’ve shared your voting stories with us, and we’re sharing them here – the good and the bad.

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Our voting location changed from St. Luke’s on Peachtree Street to Liberty Baptist Church in the Edgewood area. They combined a few precincts there. When we got there at 7 a.m., there was already a long line. It was wrapped around the entire block by 7:30 a.m. At 7:20 a.m., a poll worker said the printers weren’t working and someone was on-site to fix them. That’s why the line wasn’t moving.

It got moving 10 minutes later, and then, we were pulled into three lines – one for each precinct. Inside, workers tried their best to social distance voters and themselves, but it didn’t really work. It was tight in there. There was hand sanitizer on the way out and everyone was wearing masks, so that was good.

All in all, it took us one and a half hours to vote. It was confusing at times, and some people were frustrated. Not ideal at all, but hopefully our vote counted. The man in front of me said he lives in Midtown, and usually goes to Park Tavern to vote. When he got there, they told him to go to our location.

Leyla Compani, Fulton

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I’m in DeKalb Co. and I requested (and received) a mail-in ballot. I am in the throes of moving homes and kept putting the ballot aside thinking I’d do it “soon,” but didn’t get to it soon enough to mail in.

Sunday, I attended the protest in Decatur sponsored by the Beacon Hill Black Alliance group. I was so moved and touched by the stories and energy at the protest I vowed to do what I can do to make a difference. I went home that night, pulled out the ballot, did my research on candidates and filled out the form. Dropped it off yesterday. I feel good about stepping up to do my part.

My goal is to maintain the energy I felt at Sunday’s protest and plug into local politics and help elect people who will serve those whose voices have not been heard in a long time. Together we can all make a difference in how we move forward as a society.

Nina Acosta, DeKalb

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I did early voting at the Whitfield County courthouse a couple of weeks ago. It was easy and fairly quick. No problems at all.

Ellen Thompson, Whitfield

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It took four and a half weeks to receive a ballot after I mailed my absentee request.

I voted June 4 by taking my ballot to a dropbox on Auburn Ave. The election My Voter page shows my ballot was received June 4.

Matthew Rao, Fulton

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I just moved back to Georgia after living in California for the past 20 years, where I voted using an absentee ballot for the last 15 years. When I registered to vote here, I immediately requested an absentee ballot. For some weird reason, my ballot came, even though I was reading stories about backlogs in getting absentee ballots out.

I was able to fill in my ballot at home, where I could look the candidates as I was voting (I didn’t know who any of the judges were or what differentiated some of the other candidates). Then I sealed it up and drove a mile to a local dropbox. Done and done. It’s so easy. No lines. I just wish they’d enclose an “I voted” sticker with the ballot form.

Sherry Okun-Rudnak, Fulton

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Thanks to the incompetence of Fulton County elections, my wife and I did not have a voting experience this election cycle.

We received applications for absentee ballots the first or second week in April and mailed them to Fulton County Elections the next day.

Never got absentee ballots from Fulton County.

We kept checking online as to the status and called that office on June 1. The staffer on the phone said they would be mailed that day and literally, as my wife was looking at the online status page with her name, the status line went from “greyed out” to “issued”.

Never got the ballots.

Given our ages (the Governor still wants us to stay home) and other health factors, we are not going to stand in line at a polling location.

First time we have not voted since we both became eligible many moons ago.

Thanks to Fulton County elections disorganization and incompetence, the State of Georgia and the Courts should consider invalidating the whole thing.

Serious and reasonable questions can now be raised about whether whoever wins would have won if the process had been conducted correctly.

Michael Gerber, Fulton

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My son-in-law has colleagues in North Fulton County who were voting this morning. They told him there were no lines, everything worked and they were in and out quickly. This is in stark contrast to mid- and south Fulton County reports. If this is a pattern, it will be very disturbing.

I’m in Fulton County (downtown Atlanta) and I voted early on June 5 at Garden Hills Elementary School. It took a little over three hours. It started out with reasonable distancing and then got really tight after it rained. Many people had no masks on. After at least an hour of being shoulder-to-shoulder, surrounded by people without masks, I played the old lady card and asked to go in right away. I am in my 60s with underlying health risks that I could no longer deny. “Prolonged contact” with unmasked people was not an option. The poll staff was great!

Jennifer Brooks, Fulton

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Voting today was weird as all get out.

I applied for my absentee ballot late – later than I should, have I know — but it was received by Fulton County on June 1. Their website says it was issued on June 1… Hmm. It took a full week for that piece of mail to be delivered.

I requested a Democratic ballot. Wondered how that would fly with the Secretary of State’s office.

I received my absentee ballot yesterday, Monday, June 8, way too late to be able to mail it in and have it count.

I looked for information about what to do. It was clear I couldn’t mail in my absentee ballot.

I learned I could surrender it at my polling station. Then, after a lot of searching (found through the 11Alive website) I found that I could drop off my ballot at an Absentee Ballot Dropbox at one of 20 locations around the county! Yay?

I found one not too far from my house – the closest one is across the county line in DeKalb – would have spoiled my ballot and my vote wouldn’t have counted – Glad I read that part over a couple of times.

Got to the North Training Center on Roswell Road. The building looks thoroughly abandoned. The grass is knee-high. The building isn’t padlocked, but there are no signs of life. The dropbox is there, all by its lonesome. I inserted my ballot with the uneasy feeling that this is where democrat ballots go to die.

It took 13 various clicks to find the link to these dropboxes. Of course, I didn’t know what I was looking for. My initial search “Where can I hand in my absentee ballot?” If you look for a dropbox location, then the answer comes up quickly. It is easier to find something when you know what you’re looking for.

But I got the job done. I don’t know if the vote will count or not.

Spencer Tunnell, Fulton

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Voting was surprisingly an easy feat today. No line, no wait.

I went with my husband at the Druid Hills HS polling place around 9:20 a.m. and we were the only few ones voting. We were told there was a line early on. We had our ballot printed out and that was the first time for us.

Ironically, our daughter went early voting in Kirkwood last Friday and she waited 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Virginie Kippelen DeKalb

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I think the Fulton County Elections Board and the Secretary of State have real issues.

My wife and I wanted to use the Absentee Ballot system because we are both late 50s and both have older, medically fragile family members and friends. We applied for absentee ballots in early May before the election was postponed. I sent the applications to the Fulton County Elections board by both email and postal mail. I never heard anything back till the Fulton County Elections board sent me an email on May 29 saying my ballot was in the mail and I could “check my status.” However, when I logged in on May 29, both the date the absentee ballot request and the absentee ballot issued were blank. That indicated a problem, so I sent them an email and left a voicemail… of course, no response to either.

My wife did get her absentee ballot on Saturday, June 6, but I received nothing. Even more interesting is when I log into “my ballot” on the SOS website, now there are dates of June 1 for both the absentee ballot request and the absentee ballot issued.  That June 1 date directly contradicts the email they sent me on May 29.

I decided this was the Fulton County Elections board failure, and it should be reported to the Secretary of State. I was a little surprised when I got an error on their website trying to report the problems with Fulton County.

Anonymous, Fulton

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I voted early at the Sandy Spring library on Thursday, May 28 and walked straight into the registration desk. No waiting at all and very few people there. When I left there were four voters in line.

I also had a free COVID-19 test done on my way back to the parking lot. Testing performed by CORE. No line at the testing site. The only problem with the test was that I didn’t receive the results from the Fulton County Public Health department until today – 12 days after the test. Fortunately, I was negative on that day. Hopefully, the Fulton County Public Health officials are contacting the positive results quicker.

Kathryn Miller, Fulton

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I applied for an absentee ballot with Fulton County sending in the application that was mailed to me via email shortly after receiving it. I didn’t receive my absentee ballot until last week.

I had called the Fulton County elections office repeatedly to inquire about the ballot, never getting a response from leaving a voicemail until I called on a Saturday and someone actually answered the phone. They promised it would be mailed that day, only the ballot didn’t actually arrive at my house until about two weeks later.

I did receive it, and I did fill it out and mail it in on Thursday prior to the election. I hope it was delivered and my vote counted. I feel a little unsure about the whole process.

David Childers, Fulton

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I submitted my Absentee Ballot request on April 4 via email. I thought I would be “modern” and submit it by email instead of mailing it! My friends, who had mailed theirs, began receiving their ballots within a week. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting. Nothing. Every time I checked the MyVoter page, the link for checking one’s ballot application status was blocked. I tried to find a phone number specifically for the Elections Office to no avail. Then, I saw a neighborhood residents’ Facebook group discussing the issue.

One of my neighbors indicated she had submitted hers by email, followed up with a phone call, and received her ballot. When I contacted her, she gave me a phone number and the name of the person I should contact. I phoned that number on May 18 and was asked to leave a voice mail. To my surprise, within ten minutes the person I was trying to reach called me back. After asking me a few questions about my application, he indicated he has found it and that I was good to go, reminding me that the ballot would be mailed from Arizona, so it would take a few days. I received my ballot in a week.

While I’m happy it worked out, I now wonder whether I would have received my ballot had I not obtained the specific phone number and name of who to contact in the elections office.

We have to do better for November.

Virginia Ubik, Fulton

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I live in Fulton County (after 47 years in DeKalb) but nevertheless my husband and I applied for absentee ballots the day we received the offer in the mail. We both used the same postal station and box to send them to the county.

After waiting for a very long time, we were told to go to MyVoter Page and then to find the tiny little “Check Status of Absentee Ballot” section. My husband had no indication of any ballot while I had a “delivered” date that apparently was when the county got the application. It actually arrived at my home weeks later.

After I got my ballot, my husband knew not to wait any longer thanks to the MyVoter Page.

I took my completed ballot and put it in a Dropbox while my husband voted at the library in Sandy Springs. he said there was no line and service was good.

I will say I was astounded that I got the correct ballot minus the presidential primary portion as I had voted before.

Whew! Done!

MaryAnne Gaunt, Fulton

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Just after June 9 was officially made the new primary date, my husband and I sent in requests for absentee ballots. Upon receipt of absentee ballot request forms, we placed our completed request forms in separate post office boxes in early May.

By checking the online Secretary of State website, we could see that our absentee ballot requests were received on May 11 and supposedly our absentee ballots were sent out the same day, May 11. We waited and waited and kept checking the Secretary of State website for further updates, but nothing changed.

Finally panicked that we could not effectively vote absentee, we early voted on June 2 at Garden Hills Elementray School.  That process was set up for safety and our wait was short, but we had to provide an affidavit as to why our absentee ballots had not been received, and the new process itself (printed out ballots) was unfamiliar.

The poll workers at Garden Hills were not regular poll workers, but employees from Fulton County “on assignment” so I felt confident they did know what they were up against and thanked them for their efforts.

We are seasoned consistent voters and this process leaves me wondering how people with less time, fewer opportunities to vote and more hindrances to endure could possibly make this work.

I would add that I cannot understand why the Georgia Secretary of State had to contract with a company in Arizona for any part of this balloting fiasco.

Syd Janney, Fulton

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Went online, downloaded and filled out .pdfs for absentee ballots for me and wife.

Took them by the voter registrar office and slipped them in the door.

Waited outside for verification that all info was good

Received ballots in the mail.

Filled them out and dropped in a box outside the Voter Registrar.

I hope they get counted.

Steve Carswell, county not named

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What a disaster this year. I guess there’s more than one way to keep me from voting.

I have voted at the same place for about 10 years, and I guess it changed this year. Seriously, I didn’t have time to figure it out when I realized my old polling place was no longer the polling place. I realize this year is off, but to let me know on the day of voting is extremely lame! Totally unacceptable from our civic leaders! It seems highly suspicious to me that I didn’t get the notice till the day of voting!

Susan Quick, Fulton

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I never dreamed election day would be as bad as it is for voters. I will always vote early from now on. I wish there was something I could do for those standing in long lines now.

Doris Watkins, county not named

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My experience was a breeze.

I voted around 11 a.m. at Dunwoody High School. Very clear signage, helpful staff that gave me directions to the cafeteria where I needed to vote. The staff in the cafeteria quickly checked me in and I got started. There were plenty of voting machines, well-spaced and the process took just a few minutes. I loved that my final votes were not just submitted electronically but were printed out. I then walked over to two ladies who were managing the print scanner and scanned in my printed results and got my Peach sticker.

No long lines, good directional signs on the floors and doors. Clean, easy and I was in and out without any stress.

I hope many others had a similar experience.

Lori Agin, Dekalb

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I voted early for the first time. Did not know all the candidates thus I had time to look them up.

Rand Fisher, county not named

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I have never missed an opportunity to vote in person on Election Day. Due to the pandemic, I wasn’t comfortable voting in person this election cycle, so I requested an absentee ballot. Unlike others, I received my ballot in a timely fashion. There were a lot of races and issues on the ballot I was not familiar with, so it took a considerable amount of time researching who I wanted to vote for in each race and where I stood on the issues before finalizing my ballot. Once complete, I wasn’t confident my votes would be counted if I just mailed in my ballot, so I found an official drop off box to turn it in.

I feel safer having voted absentee, but it was not as exciting as casting my ballot in person on Election Day, so I hope it will be safe to head back to my polling place for the runoff and general elections.

Lauri Strauss, SaportaReport Staff, Cobb

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My DeKalb County absentee ballot application arrived on April 9. I’ve always been an in-person voter, but I wasn’t trying to go into a COVID-19-filled polling place. I returned the application immediately; a ballot came to my house at the end of the month. I popped that thing in the mail and, according to state records, it was received on May 6 and accepted. No more in-person voting for me unless I’m running late. I’m a convert to mail voting convenience.

Maggie Lee, SaportaReport Staff, Dekalb

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I voted early at Garden Hills Elementary. It was extremely hot out, and the line snaked around through the parking lot. The poll workers occasionally came down the line handing out waters, and everyone seemed to be in pretty good spirits.

All told, it took a little over two hours for me to cast my ballot. The whole time, though, I couldn’t help but think, “how is this process not easier?” I can, without exaggeration, push four buttons on my phone and a pizza shows up at my door. Why do I have to stand in a two-hour line under the blazing hot sun to do what we’ve been told since we were children was our most important, sacred right as citizens of this country? Why isn’t this process easier?

I’m very fortunate that I have the type of job that allows me to leave on a Tuesday afternoon. I won’t get dirty looks from managers or lose any money from lost hours or tips. But what about the people that will? The ones whose absentee ballot didn’t show up, who can’t take off of work, or who can’t leave their children at home alone? Should their voices count less than mine?

Derek Prall, SaportaReport Staff, Fulton

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It’s always my preference to vote in person so I can fully experience the act of voting. That’s why I decided to forgo getting a mail-in ballot.

I usually vote at Grady High School, but that facility was not open as a precinct. Instead, it combined the two precincts that usually vote at Grady with other precincts at Park Tavern at 10th and Monroe Drive.

I thought I would show up right at 7 so I could get it out of the way.  When I showed up at 7:02 a.m., there already was a line of possibly 200 people already in line waiting to vote.  The line weaved all the way to the end of the long Park Tavern parking area and curved back – eventually stretching all the way back to Monroe Drive.

The line initially barely moved (issues with setting up the precinct I think). Almost everyone was practicing social distancing and wearing masks.

After standing in line for more than two hours, the precinct was in sight. They divided us into two lines – folks who usually vote at Grady in one line and the other voters in another.  But poll workers directed us to the wrong line, which we figured out once we got inside Park Tavern.

Inside the precinct, practicing social distancing was impossible. The place was full of voters waiting in various lines.

In the end, it took me 2 hours and 45 minutes for me to practice my civic duty.

Maria Saporta, SaportaReport Staff, Fulton

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Photo by Maria Saporta

Photo by David Luse

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We will be updating this page with more stories as they come in. Do you have something to share? Please email Derek Prall at derek@atlantaciviccircle.org with your name, your county and a brief description of your voting experience to be included.

 

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