ATLANTA – Voting rights experts and advocates from All Voting is Local Georgia, ACLU of Georgia, Black Voters Matter, Common Cause Georgia, National Federation for the Blind-Georgia, and New Georgia Project in a telephone press briefing expressed disappointment in Secretary of State Raffensperger and Georgia officials’ performance during Tuesday’s runoff election and stressed the urgency of critical changes before Georgians vote in November.
Secretary Raffensperger and elections officials once again failed Georgia voters who expected previous elections errors to be corrected. Yesterday’s election was the third in as many months, and yet voters still had to suffer through polling place closures without proper notification, police presence, malfunctioning machines, and outdated election information, which ultimately discouraged or disenfranchised voters.
“The eyes of the nation, and indeed the world are increasingly turning towards Georgia. We’re failing when it comes to running a smooth and efficient election,” said Aklima Khondoker, Georgia state director of All Voting is Local. “When we say ‘Georgia demands better,’ that isn’t just a catchphrase; it’s an urgent need for improvement that’s echoed by every voter who triumphs over barriers to the ballot. Our elections can be better, and state officials must do better.”
“Even with the low turnout, it was clear: there is still a lot of room for improvement before November,” said Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia. “Today there were late poll openings because of problems with the new voting machines. We hope that by November, elections officials will be able to get mail ballots out to all voters who ask for them. We hope that by November, all the problems with the new voting machines will be resolved. By November, our election systems need to be not merely ‘better than June’ – they need to be 100% right.”
“The ACLU of Georgia is dedicated to making voting easy and accessible for every eligible voter,” said Andrea Young, executive director, ACLU of Georgia. “Georgia continues to fail that test. We deployed volunteers at over 40 polls in Metro Atlanta, including three attorneys. We will be making recommendations based on those experiences to protect Georgians’ sacred right to vote.”
“On the heels of the anniversary of the Americans Disabilities Act, it is unconscionable that blind and disabled voters continue to be disenfranchised in Georgia,” said Gaylon Tootle, chapter president, National Federation of the Blind, Central Savannah River. “Voting, an inherent right, remains inaccessible. With no plans for improvement from Georgia’s Secretary of State and election officials, it’s obvious that they plan on silencing our voices in the upcoming General Election in November. This cannot be allowed. We deserve to participate in the process and to have our voice heard in this and every election.”
“Long lines, undertrained poll workers, malfunctioning machines, confused voters – must be Election Day in Georgia,” Wanda Mosley, senior state coordinator, Black Voters Matter Fund. “Now, overlay these issues with a pandemic that disproportionately affects people of color and we have all the makings of expanded disenfranchisement of certain voters in the vote by mail process. We are witnessing the continued dereliction of duty from our Secretary of State, whose job is to oversee free and fair elections in our state. But Georgia voters continue to fight to build power in electoral spaces and will continue this fight in November and beyond.
“Low turnout is not abnormal in a runoff election in Georgia. Unfortunately, it is also not abnormal to have multiple failures at polling locations,” stated Nsé Ufot, CEO of The New Georgia Project. “Yesterday our staff and volunteers covered 57 precincts and the majority of the issues reported centered around the same problems – polling locations opening late and machine malfunctions. This disenfranchisement of the voter has to stop and eliminating barriers to voting must become a priority as we brace ourselves for upcoming elections that will affect us for generations to come. As we lift up Black August, honor those that fought for the passage of the 19th amendment, and continue to build power, we recognize that we are in an important fight and nothing short of American democracy is at stake.”
The audio recording of the briefing is located here