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What voting looks like at polls during June 9 primary election
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Poll worker Paula Callaway wipes down a voting machine Tuesday, June 9, 2020, at the North Hall Community Center during the primary. Callaway wiped each voting machine down after each use. - photo by Scott Rogers

Sharon Roper of Flowery Branch was just glad to get out of the house.

She had stayed at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic but decided to use Tuesday, June 9, as an opportunity to cast her vote in person at the First Baptist Church of Flowery Branch voting precinct.

“It was great,” Roper said of the experience.

Tuesday’s election — a combination of the presidential preference primary, special election and general primary — was drawing steady, but not huge numbers, early on at Hall County’s precincts.

County spokeswoman Katie Crumley said turnout had been steady Tuesday morning with no major issues.

The polls in Hall County opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 7 p.m. Polls remained open longer in some parts of the state.

Technical glitches, a lack of poll workers and high turnout contributed to long lines, prompting judges in numerous counties to sign orders extending voting hours.

This election was unique for voters, who were trying out new voting machines and casting ballots with social distancing and other COVID-19 precautions in place.

The new voting machines add an extra step of printing a hard copy of each voter’s ballot, which must then be reviewed before submitting to the tabulator. 

Karen Hoyt, poll manager at the Chestatee High School precinct, said the process was different but not more difficult. 

“It’s just a matter of getting used to it,” she said. “Next time, if there’s a runoff or in November, it will be old hat.”

Poll managers at North Hall Community Center and Lakewood Baptist Church also said the new machines did not slow down the voting process, and some voters even preferred the new machines and the opportunity to see their selections on paper.

“I like having the actual sheet to hold,” said Pam Smith, who voted at Chestatee High. “I like that better because I don’t trust our voting system. It was excellent. The process was really fast.”  

Poll workers must call the Hall County Elections Office whenever their machines show that a voter had been sent an absentee ballot. Workers verify a voter hasn’t already voted by absentee ballot before issuing a voter card to be used in a machine.

But even that delay hasn’t been a problem, said Charles Gridley, poll manager at the Flowery Branch Elementary School precinct.

“Within 30 seconds, they’re on their way,” he said.

COVID-19 precautions were plentiful at the polling locations, with each placing hand sanitizer dispensers close to the entrance and putting down Xs made of tape on the floor at 6-foot intervals so voters kept apart from one another. Some precincts also had plexiglass barriers separating voters and volunteers. 

Poll managers were unable to say earlier Tuesday how COVID-19 may be affecting voter turnout, but Brian Kelly, one of the first to vote at North Hall Community Center, said he had never even considered not showing up to make his voice heard. 

“I’m going to vote, and I don’t care if I’m dying,” he said. “It’s your right to exercise your vote.”

Reporters Nathan Berg and Megan Reed contributed.

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