With the record-breaking turnout, the Georgia secretary of state’s office said the computer system run by an outside vendor used to pull up voter profiles and check them in was overwhelmed.
“Just really capacity,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) said during a Wednesday news conference when asked to explain the bandwidth problem. “If you look at the amount of information that’s just flowing — it’s like everyone jumping on [Interstate] 285 in the morning, and sometimes you have to stagger out the rush hour."
According to the secretary of state’s office, 128,590 Georgia residents cast ballots in person on Monday, a more than 40 percent increase from the previous record first day of in-person voting, ahead of the November 2016 election.
As of noon on Thursday, 447,704 people had voted early in person.
When asked Wednesday when the issue would be resolved, Raffensperger said: “We’re working on that today, we’ll be continuing to revisit that.”
The secretary of state’s office and the vendor have tried to fix the bandwidth issue multiple times since Monday, officials said. After a fix on Wednesday afternoon, voting centers began to see shorter wait times. Not all polling locations had problems, according to Raffensperger’s office.
Cobb County elections director Janine Eveler told The Washington Post she saw improvements as of Thursday.
She said “several overnight fixes” to the computer systems were attempted Monday and Tuesday, but after the fix on Wednesday, “it’s much faster.”
She said the main office of Cobb County Elections and Registration in Marietta had a line Thursday morning with “a significant number of people that we would estimate would take four hours before."
"But since the improvements, the particular line took about 90 minutes to complete,” Eveler said.
By comparison, some voters said they waited more than 10 hours on Monday in Cobb County locations to cast their ballot.
As of 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, the Cobb County tracker showed five voting centers with wait times between 20 and 40 minutes and two centers with wait times of 120 and 180 minutes. Two hours later, the tracker showed four locations with wait times between 75 to 180 minutes.
Richmond County Elections Director Lynn Bailey said she’d seen improvements, too, starting midday Wednesday.
Before the fix, she estimated it was taking three to five more minutes more than usual to “process voters as they came through,” a problem that created a bottleneck of voters as poll workers tried to get through the crowds.
“The system would kick us out, or make us log back in, or was slow responding — you didn’t know what was going to happen really,” Bailey told The Post. “It wasn’t horrible but it was certainly slower than what we were accustomed to.”
She said it usually takes about a minute for voters to be processed at the check-in station before receiving a ballot.
Jordan Fuchs, Georgia’s deputy secretary of state, earlier this week dismissed the idea that early voting delays were a result of failures by state or local officials.
“We’ve had zero machine malfunctions or failures around the state,” she said, adding: “This is just extremely high turnout. You see these extremely long lines in historic elections. You saw it in 2008 when Obama was on the ballot, and you’re seeing it again.”
During his news conference Wednesday, Raffensperger also attributed the long waits to social distancing protocols related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“If you look at those lines, they look like they’re long, but everyone is spaced six feet out on center. That just makes your lines look a whole lot longer,” he said. “It also takes longer to actually go through the process because the machines have to be cleaned down, wiped, and so it’s just a slower, more cumbersome process.”