Long lines on first day of early voting in Georgia

Long lines on first day of early voting in Georgia
Voters waiting in line on the first day of early voting in Georgia. (Source: WTOC)

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The General Election on Nov. 3 is just over three weeks away.

Some Georgia voters started lining up early Monday morning to cast their vote. Monday was the first day of early voting for many counties across the state.

In years past, typically only one of the satellite locations for early voting have been open all three weeks. Anticipating the larger turnout, all six early voting locations are open all three weeks of early voting this year.

But one thing to note, the Registrars Office only has a certain number of machines to disperse to each location, about 60 altogether. They also only have a certain number of staff able to check people in and help voters with machines.

“I would just appeal to the voters in Chatham County to remain patient with us. We apologize that those who were in line as long as they were had to endure those wait times. We appreciate their interest in the process and we greatly appreciate their patience as we work through these early volumes of early voters," said Colin McRae, Board of Registrars Chairman.

The Board of Registrar’s Office is just one of six locations where Chatham County voters can cast their ballot.

“It’s important to me because it’s time for a change. It’s time for things to be done decently and in order, and I am so excited about this new election that we have coming,” voter Ann Langley Harris said.

It was a hot afternoon and with many waiting several hours, volunteers did bring by water and snacks for some who came out to vote.

We saw people of all ages in line, from first time voters to some who have been making their voice heard for decades, and even those who were trying to teach the next generation about the importance of voting.

They say regardless of what they have to do, how long it takes, pandemic or not, they wanted to vote.

“Don’t let anything stop you from voting," said voter Ruth Owens. "That’s where you have a voice if you vote and don’t let anything stop you from getting out.”

“This is a part of her life, this is what she is going to be doing in her future even though she doesn’t really understand how important it is to vote," said voter Terry Scott. "If you don’t make your statement then you can’t argue, you don’t have a word.”

While hundreds waited for hours here those who did get inside to vote say it was simple from there. They say they were prepared and it took minutes once in the doors.

For those who filled out their absentee ballot it literally took minutes to drop it in the box.

“It worked in my favor. It was very expedient, very, I feel very safe with my vote because I was able to drop it in the box," said voter Mikki Friedhoffer.

“It moved right quickly. It didn’t take me but 15 minutes from start to finish," said voter Julia Johnson.

“It’s intimidating out here when you have to stand two and a half hours, but there’s a lot of people here trying to vote trying to do the best thing. It’s what you need to do," said voter Charles Wood.

Langley was among the hundreds of voters that snaked around the registrar’s office in Chatham County for the first day of early voting hours before the office even opened.

Some even brought chairs like 72-year-old Maggie Kelsey, who was the first in line at 5 a.m. She says despite the ongoing pandemic, she was front and center with her mask because making her voice heard is really important.

“I have witnessed what my ancestors went through, and I came out here to carry on what they did. They didn’t use ballot boxes to vote, they came out in person so that’s the reason I’m here in person this morning,” Kelsey said.

The Board of Registrars Chairman says he heard about the long lines, as well as issues with the machines and the number of workers at a few of the locations. While he couldn’t speak to the last two, the chairman said he does anticipate the number of people showing up to eventually taper off, before picking back up toward the end of early voting.

One way to shorten the time you’re in the voting booth is to familiarize yourself with the ballot.

“There are amendments that you can take a look at that take some time to read and consider. And that’s time that you won’t have to spend at the actual voting machine if you’ve given it consideration ahead of time. Same goes for candidates. Of course if you are unfamiliar with a race, it gives you an opportunity to look into those candidates. So that’s another way that you can maybe shorten the time frame," McRae said.

Despite this being the official first day of early voting in Georgia, some voting sites are closed Monday due to the Columbus Day holiday. Effingham County is an example.

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