PRIMARY DAY: Issues at the polls being reported in several area counties

ByJennifer LifseyandZach Logan|June 9, 2020 at 5:47 AM EDT - Updated June 9 at 12:12 PM

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Voters in Georgia and South Carolina will head to the polls Tuesday for the statewide primaries.

The Latest:

9:30 a.m.

It has been a rough start for voters in several different area counties.

WTOC-TV has received reports of technical difficulties at polling locations in Chatham, Effingham, and Liberty counties. And a polling location in Pooler reported having a delayed start.

One Pooler voter tells us he was the first one in line this morning at 6:30 a.m. He said that after waiting in line for more than 40 minutes, he decided he would sit this primary out.

Other locations reported issues with voting machines.

A Chatham County Board of Elections member spoke to us about the reported issues this morning.

The Secretary of State’s Office released the following statement in response to the polling issues:

“So far we have no reports of actual equipment issues. We do have reports of equipment being delivered to the wrong locations and delivered late. We have reports of poll workers not understanding setup or how to operate voting equipment. While these are unfortunate, they are not issues of the equipment but a function of counties engaging in poor planning, limited training, and failures of leadership. Well over 2,000 precincts are functioning normally through the state of Georgia," said Gabriel Sterling, Chief Operating Officer for the Georgia Secretary of State.

Some good news - some polls have called back saying that their machines are now working.

6:30 a.m.

Polling locations across the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry will look different Tuesday because of COVID-19.

Election officials have warned that voters could face long lines Tuesday and results may be slow to be reported. Poll closures and virus restrictions have complicated in-person voting, and counties are working to process a huge increase in paper ballots received by mail.

Sneezeguards will be put in place to serve as a barrier between poll workers and voters. Poll workers will also be wearing gloves and masks. Voters are encouraged to wear their own personal protection equipment, but they are not required to do so.

The elections supervisor says additional cleaning will take place during Tuesday's voting process and when the polls close.

Voters will be given a pen and stylus to use to help them cast their ballot. Voters will then drop it into a bucket where it will be sanitized and used at a later date so that no one will share a pen.

What’s on Tuesday’s ballot?

Georgia Democrats will choose between seven contenders in the U.S. Senate race to challenge incumbent Republican David Perdue.

Ballots in Tuesday’s primary also include 16 contested U.S. House primaries, dozens of state House and state Senate races, and two nonpartisan general elections for the state Supreme Court. Jon Ossoff, Teresa Tomlinson, and Sarah Riggs Amico headline the Senate race. If no one wins a majority, the top two contenders will return in an Aug. 11 runoff.

In Chatham County, voters will be deciding who will replace Chatham County Commission Chairman Al Scott. On the Republican ballot, voters will be choosing between Jason Buelterman and Billy Hair. On the Democratic ballot, it’s Chester Ellis and James “Jay” Jones.

Another big race locally is the District Attorney for the Eastern Judicial Circuit. Incumbent Meg Heap has two democratic challengers - Shalena Cook Jones and Zena McClain.

Voters in Georgia Senate District 4 will decide two things; who will fill the remainder of the term for late State Senator Jack Hill and who will be the Republican nominee for the job in November.

Voters will also get their say in long-delayed presidential primaries, even though Donald Trump and Joe Biden have wrapped up their parties’ respective nominations. Trump is the only choice on the Republican ballot, while Biden is one of a dozen Democrats listed.

The polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Absentee ballots must be in the hands of election officials by 7 p.m. If you are a Chatham County voter, election officials say the easiest way to turn in your absentee ballot is to drop it in the absentee ballot drop dox. Voters who have requested absentee ballots but choose to vote in-person need to cancel their absentee location at the polling location.

We want to remind voters in Chatham County that their polling location may have changed. There are10 new locationsopening up across the county to make sure social distancing guidelines can be followed.

Also, the Savannah Branch NAACP will offer free rides to the polls on Tuesday between 9 am and 6 pm. Due to pandemic concerns, all drivers and voters must wear masks. Vehicles will be sanitized. Just call (912) 233-4161 to request a ride.

The Democratic Party of Georgia urges voters to call the DPG’s voter protection hotline for any voting-related questions. The hotline is available at 1-888-730-5816. Volunteers will be ready to assist voters up until the polls close.

South Carolina’s primary was in February with Joe Biden taking the win, so voters will only see state and local races on ballots Tuesday in the Palmetto State. There are four candidates running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in South Carolina. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) is seeking his fourth term. He is joined by attorney Dwayne “Duke” Buckner, businessman Michael LaPierre, and Merchant Marine Joe Reynolds.

Photo: Getty Images

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