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Swing state Georgia breaks turnout record on first day of early US election voting

The high turnout saw eager voters waiting in hours-long queues to cast their ballots in the election.

Hundreds of people wait for early voting in Marietta, Georgia
Hundreds of people wait for early voting in Marietta, Georgia
Image: Ron Harris

A RECORD NUMBER of more than 128,000 people went to the polls on the first day of early voting in Georgia, the state has announced.

The high turnout surpassed the nearly 91,000 votes cast on the first day of early voting in 2016 and saw eager voters waiting in hours-long queues across the swing state to cast their ballots.

Election officials and advocacy groups have been pushing people to vote early in the US election, either in person or by absentee ballot, in anticipation of record turnout and concerns about coronavirus exposure.

People can continue to vote early in person until 30 October. While voters must vote at their assigned polling station on the day of the election, they can vote at any open polling place in the county where they live during early voting.

Queues were already forming again this morning. An online wait time tracker tool in Gwinnett County, a populous suburban area north-east of Atlanta, showed waits exceeding three hours at two of the county’s early voting locations.

With photos and videos of long queues posted by news outlets and circulating widely on social media, some election integrity advocates and elected officials said it was evidence of voter suppression and called on election officials to take steps to take immediate action.

But others urged patience.

“Election officials have limited resources – especially during the pandemic,” Rick Hasen, an election law professor at the University of California-Irvine, tweeted last night.

“Great enthusiasm on the first day of voting leading to long lines does not necessarily mean there’s a systemic problem. Let’s give it a few days.”

Georgia’s elections have drawn national scrutiny in recent years. That was renewed in June when the state’s primary election was marred by long queues caused by equipment problems and high turnout, as well as coronavirus-related consolidations of polling places and shortages of poll workers.

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A flood of election-related lawsuits have been filed seeking to have judges order changes.

A federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit filed in August by Democrats that asked him to order Georgia election officials to take steps to prevent long queues at the polls on election day.

US District Judge Michael Brown wrote in an order today that it appears election officials have taken steps to address the issues that previously caused long queues.

“It is possible, of course, these measures will ultimately prove insufficient and long lines will still arise,” he wrote. “But that is not the point; no one, including this Court, can guarantee short lines.”

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