The state of Georgia held its Democratic and Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. The primary had been delayed from its original date because of the coronavirus pandemic. Like in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial election, voters in this presidential primary faced many challenges to get their votes casted.
Polling locations all across Georgia had delays and long lines because of technical and logistical issues with the combination of the state’s new voting machines and fewer poll locations due to COVID-19. Celebrities such as Lebron James and political figures such as former gubernatorial Georgia candidate and founder of Fair Fight, Stacey Abrams have condemned these issues and have called for an investigation into these issues. Many continue to blame Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger because of the Constitution’s obligation of the conduct of elections to be placed in the hands of the secretary of state. Raffensperger pushed for the purchase of these new voting machines that totaled the cost of $107 million. However, many, along with Stacey Abrams claim that Raffensperger and the state of Georgia failed to adequately direct, train, and invest in counties with polling locations with these new machines.
A long line of Georgia voters waiting to cast their votes in the primary election.
Raffensperger has called for an investigation into the polling delays in both Fulton and Dekalb counties, both areas in Georgia that have large minority and Democrat populations. Abrams has since disagreed with Raffensperger, arguing that Georgia experienced voter suppression issues throughout the state. Abrams has a large and vocal critic of voter suppression due to her controversial loss to Georgia governor Brian Kemp. That election had high voter turnout, but also became controversial because of significant and similar voting problems.
Even with all of these issues surrounding voting in Georgia, Georgia Democrats turned out to vote in record-breaking laws for last week’s primary. More than one million Georgia Democrats casted their votes in the primary, surpassing the number of Republican voters by tens of thousands. This high voting numbers also surpassed the previous high mark of Georgia primary votes, which was previously set during the 2008 presidential primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. This turnout was also higher, in terms of Democratic votes, compared to the 2018 gubernatorial primary where 550,000 voters were casted.
Republicans casted more than 950,000 votes in last week’s primary. While the number of votes were lower than the Democrats, the Republicans had no competitive statewide contest on the ballot, like the Democrats. President Trump had already secured the Republican Party’s nomination for president, and Senator David Perdue had no primary opposition. The turnout in the election also soared mainly because of the surge in absentee ballots after the expansion of mail-in-voting amid coronavirus restrictions. The mail-in-ballots were split about equally between the Republicans and the Democrats.
While Georgia Republicans have had a history of managing elections in ways that have benefited their candidates over candidates of other parties and diminishing the voices of African Americans that do not vote for the GOP, voter suppression is also a national crisis. Federal government officials have failed to establish exemplary standards for how states to register American voters, cast votes, and get them counted efficiently. Additionally, the federal government has not provided the necessary funding to establish adequate voting standards across the nation.
Some have proposed solutions to the under-resourcing of polling locations across the country, such as Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change. Robinson argues that the “under-resourcing of polling locations in predominantly black communities like Atlanta is an intentional method of voter suppression from a Republican-led state legislature that works to further disenfranchise our communities.” Robinson additionally argues that the federal system is ineffective when it comes to the underfunding of elections because of its spending on violent policing and mass incarceration instead of investing in critical community needs such as safe elections. Robinson also argues for effective change that Congress can take. He calls for the Senate to fully fund safe elections through the HEROES Act, a piece of legislation broadly related to the coronavirus pandemic and mass unemployment but includes $3.6 billion for funding for the updating of election systems nationwide.
Former Vice President Joe Biden won the Democratic primary in Georgia by securing 84.2 percent of the vote. President Trump remains unopposed in the 2020 presidential election.