It has not been a great election day in metro Atlanta. Ever since the polls opened at 7 a.m., Atlantans have been stuck in hours-long lines (made physically even longer due to social distancing); poll workers, many of whom are brand new, have struggled to operate the state’s new voting machines; and some polling places opened late. Even some Atlantans who applied for absentee ballots ended up voting in person because they never received their ballot in the mail, having to instead wait in line and sign an affidavit swearing they applied for absentee voting before casting their ballot. Now, polling places in several counties have extended their hours from 7 p.m. to 9 or 10 p.m., with all Fulton County locations open until 9 p.m. And that’s just the deadline to get in line—who knows how long voters will actually have to wait.
Our articles editor, Thomas Wheatley, was among those in the monstrous lines today. He arrived at his polling place near Westview around 10 a.m. and didn’t finish casting his vote until nearly 2:30 p.m. So, while he waited, he began asking those in line around him about the folding chairs they carried along with them, because that made about as much sense as what was happening to the election system.
While most Atlantans know that this would be a rougher voting day due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it still feels like it shouldn’t have been this hard. Or, as Thomas put it on Twitter, “When dozens of voters bring chairs to their polling precinct because they expect to be there for hours, that right there is a broken elections system.”
So, without further ado, here is what Thomas learned about his neighbors—and their chairs. —Myrydd Wells
Gartrell Robinson, III, spent his time waiting drawing autonomous vehicles. He lives in West End and says he arrived right as the polls opened, at 7 a.m. (This photo was taken around 10 a.m.) I didn’t get many details about his chair. “Ask yourself who benefits from the chaos,” he says.
This is Kiyomi and her daughter, Lyric. Lyric is a rising sophomore at Spelman. This is her first time voting. Having to wait for hours in line makes her question whether officials are serious about helping people vote.
As for their chairs: “According to Target, this is the ‘basic’ chair,” Kiyomi says and laughs. “If you want a simple chair, this is literally it.”
“You can’t put hot liquids in there,” Lyric adds with a laugh.
Courtney Watson can’t remember where she bought this beauty, a foldable leopard-print camping chair. “I knew the line would be long,” the Westview resident says. “I saw the line and grabbed it. I brought my iPad so I could work.”
“I brought the chair for her, saw the line, and walked home and got another,” Michael says. “And an umbrella. This could take long.”
“He’s a good husband,” Christie says. “He brought snacks, too.”
Some folks waited six hours to vote here. This is Jyron. He’s using a classic folding chair with wooden slats for a seat, in the A.C. Slater pose. He used to live in DeKalb County. Things went a lot smoother there, he says. To pass the time, Jyron did squats, sit-ups, and push-ups. Next time, he says he’s coming prepared like Michael and Christie.
Lauren Owens tried to participate in early voting three times—twice in College Park and once at the C.T. Martin Recreation Center—but faced obstacles each time. She’s kept this chair in her car since 2013. “Anywhere you go in Atlanta, you might need a chair. Buying tickets, music festivals. I guess voting,” she says.
These stools are courtesy of the Westview Community Organization.
Paige and Brandon got this flamingo-print beach chair years ago at a Walmart on the way to Hilton Head (they think). ”There is one purpose for these machines,” Paige says. “If they don’t work on the day they’re supposed to, that’s kind of crazy.”