VOTE 20

Georgia Residents Report Waiting In Line To Vote For Up To 11 Hours

The long lines in Georgia’s first week of early voting are consistent with the state’s long history of voter suppression, but Black voters are determined to be heard during this election.

Hundreds of people wait in line for early voting on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Marietta, Georgia. Eager voters have waited six hours or more in the former Republican stronghold of Cobb County, and lines have wrapped around buildings in solidly Democratic DeKalb County. | AP Images
Hundreds of people wait in line for early voting on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Marietta, Georgia. Eager voters have waited six hours or more in the former Republican stronghold of Cobb County, and lines have wrapped around buildings in solidly Democratic DeKalb County. | AP Images

Voters in Georgia waited in line for several hours at the polls this week, the first week of early voting in the state for the general election. The state’s unreasonably long wait times are consistent with its history of voter suppression. 

On Monday, Georgia residents reported waiting in line for up to eleven hours — and in some cases, voting machine malfunctions caused even more delays. On Tuesday afternoon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that voters were given estimated wait times of eight hours in Gwinnett County and five hours in Cobb County. 

One of the largest early voting sites in Atlanta is at State Farm Arena, the home of the city's NBA team, where 300 new voting machines have been set-up, according to TIME. Voting was paused early Monday morning as some machines experienced technical difficulties. 

Despite the wait times, Georgia voters and others around the country have already turned out to vote in huge numbers, smashing records for early voting. 

Georgia’s long wait times to vote are not new — The Nation called the state “ground zero for voter suppression.” During the primaries in June, voters experienced similarly long wait times to cast their ballots. 

Some of the counties with the longest reported lines also have high non-white populations, in line with research from 2019, which found that race is one of the strongest predictors of how long one must wait in line to vote. 

Researchers from UCLA, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Chicago used cell phone data to “quantify a racial disparity in voting wait times across a nationwide sample of polling places” during the 2016 election. They found that “relative to entirely-white neighborhoods, residents of entirely-Black neighborhoods waited 29% longer to vote and were 74% more likely to spend more than 30 minutes at their polling place.” 

Similarly, a 2017 report from Stephen Pettigrew of the University of Pennsylvania found that “nonwhite voters are seven times more likely than white voters to wait in line for more than an hour to vote.” Pettigrew concluded that the reason is because more resources, including poll workers and more voting machines, are provided to mostly white neighborhoods.

Stacey Abrams, who ran for governor in 2018 and lost in an extremely close race to Republican Brian Kemp — many think due to targeted voter suppression — has been on the ground in Georgia this week promoting early voting. Jill Biden, the wife of the Democratic nominee, also visited on the first day of early voting and met with Abrams.

Abrams partnered with LeBron James and his More Than A Vote organization, along with other athletes and artists, for an animated short released this week about how important it is for people to make a voting plan.

"We've been through a lot this year as athletes and as a people, but if we all get off the sidelines and make a plan to vote, we can flex our political muscle as Black people and fight back against the forces of voter suppression," Portland Trailblazers star Damian Lillard said. "So I hope everyone checks out Civics for the Culture, shares it with their networks on social media, and makes a plan to vote early or on Election Day."

Some reporters have pointed out the long lines on the first two days of early voting also indicate widespread enthusiasm among voters for this election, and note that the early voting period in Georgia runs through October 30. 

As of Friday morning, at least 21.8 million Americans have voted in the 2020 election, according to the U.S. Elections Project.