Super Tuesday voting in Georgia

- Polls are closed across the state of Georgia now, but the Presidential Preference Primary was not without its issues. Georgians turned out in force to cast ballots in the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries on Super Tuesday, when 12 states were voting.

Georgia had one of the largest delegate totals up for grabs, giving the state an importance that drew last-minute visits from multiple Republican candidates. Meanwhile, the state's large population of black voters was considered essential to a win for Democrats.

Voters who have cast their ballots at one Fulton County elementary school for decades were rerouted Tuesday leading to chaos and frustration. 

"Today, I'm very unhappy," said Atlanta Civil Rights activist Xernona Clayton who spent more than an hour driving around to different polling places. 

Clayton was one of possibly hundreds who said they were not notified of precinct assignment changes.

"How many votes might we lose? That's what I'm asking," Clayton added. "How many might we lose? This is not a good American spirit."

While some reported problems in neighborhoods in north Fulton, the majority of issues impacted people who tried to vote at Fickett Elementary School in southwest Atlanta.  A volunteer started taking down the names of those affected around 12:30 Tuesday afternoon. That list reached more than a hundred names before the polls closed.

 

Fulton County Elections officials held a briefing around 1 p.m. to address the problems.

"Polling places change for various reasons," explained Richard Barron, Fulton County elections director.  "We are required to send out notifications.  We've sent out all of the notifications for all the polling place changes.  There were many that we sent out."

Voters, however, claimed they never received any notice.  Barron said it would take days for the county to review what happened.

"The whole thing that Fulton County's about is making sure that everyone can vote and what I regret to hear about is anybody going to the polls and being turned away.  So, we're trying to manage any of those situations that come up in the field," Barron added.

People who were redistricted had two options on primary day--they could go to their new assigned polling place or cast their vote by provisional ballot at the original location.

News of the problem even spread to Congressman John Lewis, D- Georgia, who stopped by Fickett and vowed to get to the bottom of what went wrong. 

"The vote is precious. It's almost sacred," said Rep. Lewis. "It's the most powerful, non-violent instrument or tool we have in our democratic society and it should be as easy as getting a glass of water."

Fulton County was not able to provide data on how many voters had been reassigned to new polling places since November's election.

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There were also problems at a polling place in Virginia Highland. Touchscreens at Fire Station 19 were mislabeled, showing the wrong precinct. A polling worker came in and switched out the memory cards and got everything up and running.

Based in part on heavy turnout during early voting, Georgia could see a record number of presidential primary ballots cast by the time polls close Tuesday, said Robert Hydrick, a spokesman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

Georgia was joined at the polls by residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia. Minnesota and Colorado are holding caucuses for both parties as Republican caucuses are being held in Alaska and Wyoming and American Samoa holds its Democratic caucuses.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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