Incompetence, not obstruction
Complaints about voter disenfranchisement often have more to do with incompetence than partisan scheming, we suspect. This year’s primary election in Georgia appears to be a case in point.
Voters reported lengthy delays and other problems in many of the state’s 159 counties last Tuesday. They were especially severe — and well-publicized — in Atlanta. In 20 counties, the deadline for casting ballots had to be extended because of delays in allowing people to vote.
Blame COVID-19 for at least some of the obstacles. Georgia was not alone in facing challenges, some of them becoming apparent just days or even hours before voting was to start, because of poll workers who decided they didn’t want to risk becoming infected by reporting to their duty stations.
Requirements for social distancing and sanitizing equipment also created problems, of course.
But there were challenges unrelated to the coronavirus, too. One was use of new voting machines. Predictably, there were glitches such as poll workers being unfamiliar with the equipment.
Blaming poll workers just won’t do, of course. Most are civic-minded amateurs who receive little training. They do their election-related jobs once every couple of years.
“I think it comes down to poor planning, first and foremost,” one Georgia poll worker told The Associated Press.
Allowances have to be made for COVID-19, of course. No doubt the voting process in Georgia and everywhere else would have been smoother had the epidemic not gotten in the way.
But Georgia’s primary originally had been scheduled for March 24. Because of the epidemic, it was moved to May 19, then changed again to last Tuesday. Even weeks of additional time were not enough to get it right.
No one should be too hard on election officials in Georgia or anywhere else this year, of course. COVID-19 has upset the best-laid plans of many people, in many ways.
Still, problems such as those in Georgia and some other states have left a significant number of voters disenchanted with the process. That is not a recipe for high voter participation in the future.