ATLANTA – The chaos that plagued Georgia’s primary this week is raising concerns about a potential broader failure of the nation’s patchwork election system that could undermine the November presidential contest, political leaders and elections experts say.
With less than five months to go, fears are mounting that several battleground states are not prepared to administer problem-free elections during the pandemic.
The increasingly urgent concerns are both complex and simple: long lines disproportionately affecting voters of color in places like Atlanta with a history of voter suppression; a severe shortage of poll workers scared away by coronavirus concerns; and an emerging consensus that it could take several days after polls close on Election Day to determine a winner as battleground states struggle with an explosion of mail voting.
“We want a democracy in the United States we can showcase for the world, and right now it's broken and on full display," said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Officials across the political spectrum have raised concerns, but there is a contrast in the level of urgency by party, and even by race.
Democrats want to send billions of dollars to overburdened state and local election systems and expand in-person early voting and universal no-excuse mail balloting. Republicans, reluctant to inject the federal government into state elections, have resisted such efforts and instead call on local elections officials, who in urban areas are often Democrats, to fix the problems themselves.
President Donald Trump is also fighting states' plans to expand voting by mail, raising repeated concerns with no evidence about voter fraud.
Civil rights activist Al Sharpton said he has lost confidence in the nation's voting system, particularly across states where federal protections that ensured minority voters weren't disenfranchised have been swept away.