Voters wait in line at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena on October 12, 2020. JOHN SPINK / JOHN.SPINK@AJC.COM
Credit: John Spink
Credit: John Spink
Other early voting sites include the training facility of a former Atlanta Hawks star, government offices, and even a bus full of touch screens for voting. At the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, at least 1
30 voters waited to vote when the polls opened.
Within 6 feet of each other, the vast majority of voters wore masks with a few exceptions.
All registered voters can participate in early voting, allowing them to choose a time that fits their schedule and avoid the lines on November 3. Voters must cast their vote in the county in which they are registered, but they can choose any location within their county.
The front rows were created out of unprecedented interest and demands for social distancing, but election officials said their goal is to keep the lines moving and avoid problems like those seen in Georgia’s primary. In the June 9 election, high voter turnout, shortage of electoral workers, and difficulties with voting equipment led to waits of over three hours in some areas.
To exploreBecause early voting is more important than ever in Georgia
At Lucky Shoals Park near Norcross, the wait was over an hour on Monday morning.
Janice Elliott-Howard, 54, said she was encouraged – not surprised – by the jokes. Voting in person was an easy decision for her.
“I think it’s the safest way to vote. Safe and then you know your vote is in,” Elliott-Howard said. “I don’t trust putting it in a box or leaving it at the post office.”
Gwinnett officials said high voter interest caused the queues, with some people already waiting at 4am, three hours before polling stations open. No technical issues have been reported in Gwinnett.
At the Tucker Library in DeKalb County, 74-year-old Roy Rustin arrived at 5am wearing his red bandana. He has a weakened immune system and he figured he’d be in and out quickly when the polls opened. He said he sees it as his duty to vote, but he didn’t trust the absentee voting system.
“I thought if I were on the front line this would be the least dangerous way,” Rustin said, adding that he sees voting as part of his duty as a citizen.
When he voted, shortly after 7 am, the queue at the library snaked into the parking lot and ended on the sidewalk.
There have been “long waits” at some of DeKalb’s voting venues, but no glitches or late departures, spokesman Erik Burton said.
The first person voters will join Georgia’s 439,000 voters who have already returned their absentee ballots. When election day finally arrives, more than two-thirds of the 5 million turnout expected by the state will have already voted.
Early voters will use Georgia’s new voting system, which combines familiar touchscreens with the addition of printed paper ballots. Voters will be able to review their paper-based choices before putting it into an optical scanner.
A judge’s ruling late Sunday allowed Georgia to continue using the voting system, rejecting the effort of electoral security advocates to switch to hand-filled paper ballots.
The early voting experience is different than in past years due to the safety precautions related to the coronavirus.
Voters were spaced 6 feet apart and separated from voter workers by plexiglass shields at check-in. Voting equipment will often be cleaned and disinfected. Voters were given styles if they didn’t want to use their fingers on touchscreens.
Ryan Drummond, 42, is a new citizen and first-time voter. By 8:30 am, he had already waited for about an hour outside the early voting venue at the Mountain Park Activity Building in County Gwinnett. He still had a long way to go.
Drummond said he decided to vote early because he didn’t want to wait for election day, and the confusion surrounding mail-order voting made him uncomfortable.
“Being a first-time voter, I didn’t want to make a mistake so he would be rejected,” he said.
To exploreGeorgia 2020 election guide
There are over 60 early voting venues in Metro Atlanta’s four main counties, including more than 30 in Fulton County alone.
Voters can find early voting sites and the county election timetable website or on the state’s My Voter page at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.
Early voting lasts from 12 October to 30 October, including a Saturday on 24 October.
Please come back to AJC.com for updates from the first voting venues on Monday.
– Writers Shaddi Abusaid and Brad Schrade contributed to this article.