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Hours extended at certain Chatham Co. polling locations due to issues Tuesday morning

Voters head to the polls for the June Primary.
Voters head to the polls for the June Primary.(WTOC)
Updated: Jun. 9, 2020 at 4:14 PM EDT
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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Several issues were reported at multiple polling locations in Chatham County on Tuesday.

Chatham County Board of Elections member Antwan Lang discussed some of the issues they were facing. Lang said it was everything from having a limited power source at one location to simple human error at others.

Due to the issues, polling hours were extended until 9 p.m. for select polling locations in Chatham County:

  • 1-05 JEA Building
  • 1-09 Central Church of Christ
  • 1‐10 St. Thomas Episcopal
  • 1‐12 Isle of Hope Baptist Center
  • 1‐13 The Sanctuary
  • 1‐14 Compassion Christian Church
  • 1‐16 Ferguson Ave Baptist Church
  • 1-17 Islands Christian Church
  • 2-03 W. W. Law Center
  • 2-07 Christ Community Church at Morningside
  • 2-09 Salvation Army
  • 3-08 Jenkins High School
  • 3-09 The ConneXion Church
  • 3-11 Southside Baptist Church
  • 3-10 Bible Baptist Church
  • 3-13 New Covenant Seventh Day Ad
  • 4‐13 Skidaway Island Presbyterian
  • 5-02 Senior Citizens Inc
  • 5-07 Chatham EMS/Station 1
  • 5-08 Savannah Primitive Baptist
  • 6-03 Crusader Community Center
  • 7‐03 Preston B. Edwards Gymnasium
  • 7‐04 Lakeshore Community Center
  • 7‐05 Woodlawn Baptist Church
  • 7‐06 Pooler Municipal Building
  • 7‐07 Rothwell Baptist Church
  • 7-08 Bloomingdale Comm. Center
  • 7‐11 Savannah First Seventh Day
  • 7‐12 Pooler Rec Center
  • 7‐15 Rice Creek School
  • 7‐16 Pooler Rec Center
  • 8-01 Civic Center
  • 8-06 Tompkins Recreation Center
  • 8-09 Moses Jackson Center
  • 8‐16 Royal Cinema and Imax

But no matter the situation, it turned away many potential voters as some had to go to work and others simply couldn't stand in the heat any longer.

Voters in line at the Liberty City Community Center on Tuesday said many of them waited for hours before finally getting inside to cast their votes and even then, they left wondering if their votes would count.

Board of Elections Member Antwan Lang stopped by this location and others during the day to try and help troubleshoot some of the problems they were seeing, from not having a correct power source to simple human error handling the machines.

“That's incompetence. All these things should have been done prior too, there should have been a dry run of some sort. But it's 'Oh, expect long lines.” No, no, no, you had plenty of time. You've had a year, two years to get this thing in place, fire him,” voter Craig Carter said.

"As a leader, I will always take responsibility for whatever the, lack of, that we have done. I will not blame our poll workers; I will not blame the secretary of state for example. I blame myself for many of the issues that have happened because maybe I wasn't as vigilant as I should have been making sure our poll workers were trained properly,” Lang said.

Lang went on to say one of the biggest issues he saw was many locations were not using all of the machines that they had available. Something when he visited he made sure to encourage each station to start doing even if they didn’t have long lines at the time.

Posted by Sam Bauman on Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office released the following statement in response to the polling issues:

“So far, we have no reports of actual equipment issues. We do have reports of equipment being delivered to the wrong locations and delivered late. We have reports of poll workers not understanding setup or how to operate voting equipment. While these are unfortunate, they are not issues of the equipment but a function of counties engaging in poor planning, limited training, and failures of leadership. Well over 2,000 precincts are functioning normally through the state of Georgia," said Gabriel Sterling, Chief Operating Officer for the Georgia Secretary of State.

Polling locations across the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry will look different Tuesday because of COVID-19.

Election officials have warned that voters could face long lines Tuesday and results may be slow to be reported. Poll closures and virus restrictions have complicated in-person voting, and counties are working to process a huge increase in paper ballots received by mail.

Sneezeguards will be put in place to serve as a barrier between poll workers and voters. Poll workers will also be wearing gloves and masks. Voters are encouraged to wear their own personal protection equipment, but they are not required to do so.

The elections supervisor says additional cleaning will take place during Tuesday's voting process and when the polls close.

Voters will be given a pen and stylus to use to help them cast their ballot. Voters will then drop it into a bucket where it will be sanitized and used at a later date so that no one will share a pen.

Georgia Democrats will choose between seven contenders in the U.S. Senate race to challenge incumbent Republican David Perdue.

Ballots in Tuesday’s primary also include 16 contested U.S. House primaries, dozens of state House and state Senate races, and two nonpartisan general elections for the state Supreme Court. Jon Ossoff, Teresa Tomlinson, and Sarah Riggs Amico headline the Senate race. If no one wins a majority, the top two contenders will return in an Aug. 11 runoff.

In Chatham County, voters will be deciding who will replace Chatham County Commission Chairman Al Scott. On the Republican ballot, voters will be choosing between Jason Buelterman and Billy Hair. On the Democratic ballot, it’s Chester Ellis and James “Jay” Jones.

Another big race locally is the District Attorney for the Eastern Judicial Circuit. Incumbent Meg Heap has two democratic challengers - Shalena Cook Jones and Zena McClain.

Voters in Georgia Senate District 4 will decide two things; who will fill the remainder of the term for late State Senator Jack Hill and who will be the Republican nominee for the job in November.

Voters will also get their say in long-delayed presidential primaries, even though Donald Trump and Joe Biden have wrapped up their parties’ respective nominations. Trump is the only choice on the Republican ballot, while Biden is one of a dozen Democrats listed.

The polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Absentee ballots must be in the hands of election officials by 7 p.m. If you are a Chatham County voter, election officials say the easiest way to turn in your absentee ballot is to drop it in the absentee ballot drop dox. Voters who have requested absentee ballots but choose to vote in-person need to cancel their absentee location at the polling location.

We want to remind voters in Chatham County that their polling location may have changed. There are 10 new locations opening up across the county to make sure social distancing guidelines can be followed.

Also, the Savannah Branch NAACP will offer free rides to the polls on Tuesday between 9 am and 6 pm. Due to pandemic concerns, all drivers and voters must wear masks. Vehicles will be sanitized. Just call (912) 233-4161 to request a ride.

The Democratic Party of Georgia urges voters to call the DPG’s voter protection hotline for any voting-related questions. The hotline is available at 1-888-730-5816. Volunteers will be ready to assist voters up until the polls close.

South Carolina’s primary was in February with Joe Biden taking the win, so voters will only see state and local races on ballots Tuesday in the Palmetto State. There are four candidates running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in South Carolina. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) is seeking his fourth term. He is joined by attorney Dwayne “Duke” Buckner, businessman Michael LaPierre, and Merchant Marine Joe Reynolds.

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