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‘This Is What We Go Through to Vote’: Concerns of Voter Suppression Raised in Diverse Georgia County

A polling location in Gwinnett County, Georgia was shut down for hours after it was supposed to have been open because election officials there allegedly couldn’t find power cords for voting machines.

Concerns about voter suppression were raised. Why? According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “More than 60 percent of Gwinnett’s 900,000 residents are black, Latino or Asian — a tidal shift for a county that was almost exclusively white in the 1990s.”

Video shows an hours-long line of what one would-be voter termed “voter suppression” at the Anderson Livsey Elementary School voting site in Snellville.

The man filming the long line of voters being denied access to the polls said:

Election Day started an hour ago in my neighborhood. And we don’t have cords to plug in the voting machines. We all knew that voting was today. And only in my neighborhood are people waiting an hour after the polls open to vote. And they’re saying that we don’t have power chords. Opportunistic. Everyone in the world knew we were going to vote today. And in my neighborhood, there are no power chords. The building is full of power chords. No power chords.

The videographer went on to describe the scene at the elementary school in increasingly uncharitable terms–but made it clear that the black voters waiting there were adamant about exercising their fundamental rights and the heavily-fraught franchise.

“All these dedicated people,” he said. “Waiting to vote. This is what we call voter suppression. This is what we go through to vote. In case anyone was wondering. No one in the voting precinct. No one is voting. The precinct is empty.”

A voter in line at the polling location who declined to be named out of fear of retaliation told Law&Crime that the site in question opened at 7 a.m but that voters were told they would not be allowed to vote because there were no power cords for the voting machines.

That voter also said that people were finally allowed to vote sometime around 9 a.m. on Tuesday–but only after local news outlet WSB-TV showed up with their cameras.

Election officials in Gwinnett County told Law&Crime they were aware of the issues at the elementary school and that multiple voters had contacted them about the lack of power chords. When pressed on how and why such a scenario could have occurred, however, officials declined to comment.

Law&Crime then followed up with Gwinnett County Elections Coordinator Kelvin Williams, but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication.

In comments to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Gwinnett County spokesperson Joe Sorenson would only confirm that power chords were not packed for the site’s ExpressPoll machines. Sorenson later told NBC News, “the machine was not supplied power and was running on battery and the battery ran out.”

Similar issues–closures and wait times–occurred at three other heavily African-American polling sites in Gwinnett County.

One such site in particular, Annistown Elementary School, has the largest number of black voters out of any precinct in Gwinnett County. There, the lines of frustrated voters stretched even further as voters waited over four-and-a-half hours to cast their ballots.

People aren’t convinced that this was all just a coincidence.

George Chidi noted in the GeorgiaPol blog:

Georgia’s segregation patterns are deep and broad and voting patterns are racially identifiable here — 90 percent of black voters cast Democratic ballots…Mechanically, it would not take a massive effort to materially damage black voting power in a close election like this.

Dozens of voters decided the long lines simply weren’t worth the wait.

“This was voter suppression at its finest,” 35-year-old truck driver Takeye Sneeze told the Washington Post.

[image via screengrab/video used with permission]

Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher

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