Thomas Friedman has settled into a camping chair with a thermos of steaming coffee. Every minute he shuffles forward a few meters with his chair. He has joined a long line outside the polling station in Tucker, a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. Since the beginning of this week, the residents of this southern state have already been able to vote early.
This has led to long queues all over the state in recent weeks. Sometimes voters had to stand for ten hours before they could cast their votes. Anyway, Friedman wants to vote today. “You never know how long you’ll have to wait in line. It could be half an hour or three hours. You better be prepared.”
In this video, Americans like Thomas Friedman talk about why they are voting early and standing in line:
That determination can be seen in the queue among several voters. Many of them are not confident that the elections will be fair and want to make sure that their vote counts with an early poll. Georgia is the place to be. Traditionally, this is a conservative state that has been staunchly voting Republican for years. But in the polls, Democrat Joe Biden has been in a neck-and-neck race with President Trump here for weeks.
Distrust of postal votes
“This year, voters are voting in advance much more than usual,” notes Trump voter Stan Mcllroy. “This has two causes. One: the pandemic. People don’t feel like standing in large crowds in a polling station on Election Day. Two: many people don’t trust the postal votes.”
That mistrust is fueled by Trump, who constantly claims – without evidence – that postal votes lead to massive electoral fraud. It is precisely for this reason that Biden voter Robert comes to deliver his vote personally at the polling station. “I originally planned to vote by mail, but I decided not to. I don’t want Trump to use my postal vote to cast doubt on the outcome.”
Those concerns about the election process have been around for much longer. America has a long history of it voter suppression. The 1965 Voting Rights Act was supposed to end the suppression of the vote of black Americans. But to this day, Republican states in particular still use a wide range of tactics that make it difficult for minorities to vote.
Georgia also has a reputation in that field. To be able to vote in America you must register in the electoral register. Georgia’s Republican leaders introduced increasingly strict requirements for voters to register. The state has also closed hundreds of polling stations in recent years. Much of the closures took place in regions where the majority of the population is black.
Participant and referee
In Georgia, the Secretary of State is responsible for the fairness of the elections. In 2018, it was Brian Kemp, who was also the Republican candidate in the governor’s election that same year. He was a participant and a referee at the same time in his own election.
A few months before the election, Kemp decided to remove 560,000 voters from the electoral register. According to Kemp, the removed voters had either died or moved to another address. A disproportionate number of black voters were removed from the lists. Afterwards, an investigation showed that Kemp had wrongfully removed more than 300,000 voters: they still lived at the same address as stated in the electoral register. Kemp would narrowly win the governor’s election.
According to the Republican government, the measures are necessary to prevent voter fraud and to spend tax money efficiently. According to Democrats and civil rights activists, they are primarily intended as obstacles to minorities and low-income voters, groups that vote predominantly Democratic.
‘Not normal and unfair’
Aunna Dennis is also concerned about the fairness of the elections this year. She is the local president of Common Cause, a civil rights organization that opposes voter suppression fight. The long lines in front of the polling stations prove to her that not all Georgia residents can cast their votes equally easily. “It’s not normal and unfair. Voters shouldn’t have to wait three to nine hours to vote.”
Yet she also draws hope from the long lines. “It says a lot about the enthusiasm and persistence of voters. They are willing to wait a long time to make sure their vote counts despite all the hurdles they have to overcome.”
The hard numbers confirm her words. More than 1.1 million voters in Georgia have already cast their votes early with more than two weeks to go until Election Day on November 3. Never before has the turnout in Georgia been so high at this stage of the presidential election.