Georgia is still a toss-up: Here's what it looked like on the ground at 2 polling places in the increasingly diverse state
- Due in part to demographic changes, Georgia has been shifting from reliably red to swing-state status.
- As of Wednesday afternoon, Georgia has not yet been called in the presidential race. One of its two US Senate races is also too close to call, and the other is headed to a January runoff.
- Here's what Election Day looked like in two diverse areas of the state.
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The contrast was complete in one of Atlanta's oldest neighborhoods on Tuesday.
It was cloudy on Election Day in 2018 in Pittsburgh, a neighborhood that's been a part of African-American history in Atlanta since 1883. Voters this time around recalled what it was like to wind up in the news two years ago, needing a visit from Rev. Jesse Jackson, a judge's order, and more to move lines and extend polling hours. The last ballot was cast after midnight.
On Tuesday, the sun came out, a jazz band played, a DJ got dancers moving, a magician juggled balls, three groups gave away everything from chili to apples and the lines were short.
Those that voted in person in Pittsburgh on Tuesday said two things: They couldn't believe the polling place had figured things out, going from the three voting machines of 2018 to eight times that amount, and, that even long lines would not have kept them away.
"I'm very surprised to not see a line," said Roger Askew, a 57-year-old Amazon warehouse worker who has lived in the neighborhood three decades. Some of his friends got discouraged two years ago, said "to heck with it," left the line, and didn't vote, he said. "It was ridiculous. I don't know if it was because this is a Black neighborhood, or what." This time, many of them sent in absentee, mail-in ballots – but "I don't trust … none of that," he added. Instead, he showed up in person, ready to vote no matter what. "I had to come back," he said. "I wanted to see a change."
Sabrina Miller, 29, came late in the afternoon two years ago to the Pittsburgh polling place and remembers "the line coming down the street." She had to wait two hours to vote. She also saw people leave the line to go home. This time, she said, "I didn't want to give up – because change is something important we need – for my family, my kids, we need a different president."
But still, turnout appeared down to a trickle; there were more volunteers than voters for much of the morning.
Due in part to demographic changes, the state has been shifting from reliably red to swing-state status. As of Wednesday afternoon, Georgia has not yet been called in the presidential race. One of its two US Senate races is also too close to call, and the other is headed to a January runoff.
Later Tuesday afternoon, about 65 miles northeast, some Hispanic voters in Gainesville, the county seat of Hall County, had a different struggle than long lines on their minds: the English language.
Hall has been seeing double-digit population growth in recent decades, driven by the Hispanic population, now estimated at 29% of the county's total population of 200,000-plus. Many work in the area's poultry and manufacturing industries.
Despite these numbers, Hall County has not followed the example of Gwinnett and Dekalb counties, both of which just became the first in Georgia history to provide election materials in Spanish during a presidential election. Gwinnett had already been advised by the Census Bureau that its large Hispanic population had brought the county under Sec. 203 of the Voting Rights Act; Dekalb took the initiative to translate voting materials without being told to do so.
But in Hall, local officials decided, in recent months, to study the matter, which contributed to the confusion and frustration some Latino voters were feeling Tuesday.
Maria Diaz, 55, had come to vote at Harmony Hall Baptist Church polling place with her son, Roberto, 23, to help translate. Roberto noted that it had been hard for his mother to obtain useful information in Spanish that would help her cast her ballot. "They [TV news] only comment on the presidential elections," he said – and not about state and local races or referenda. So he did his research, and accompanied his mother to the voting booth, to help her understand all her choices in a language that is challenging for her. She became a US citizen in 2015, after about 16 years of waiting; this was only her second presidential election.
"Without him," she said, pointing to her son, "I might have voted, but just by making random choices."
Cristina Proaño and Gabriel Velázquez stood outside the church, volunteering to help voters translate the ballot if needed. Some voters asked them for help verifying they were registered. Both observed that difficulties with English led many voters to ask them questions such as, "How do I know which candidates are for which party?" Others only wanted to vote for president, as they didn't understand the other races. One, said Proaño, couldn't read in Spanish or English.
"I noticed that they didn't have any information" about voting, Proaño added. Their choices "are like a lottery." Most worked in the poultry industry, she said. "They spend all their time working. They don't have time to learn the language [English]."
About 30 minutes before the poll closed at 7 p.m., Luis Figueroa and Ana Montalvo showed up to vote – or rather Ana accompanied Luis, with the plan of helping translate. Both are Puerto Rican, making them US citizens, but they had been raised speaking Spanish. Ana said she was "frustrated," because she also didn't understand much about the election, and didn't think she could be of much help to Luis. This led her to decide not to cast a ballot herself. She was relieved to see Velázquez there to help.
She mentioned her sister, who also lives in Hall County, and is married to a man with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a status that protects people from deportation who were brought to the US when young. Although her sister also struggles with English, she decided to vote for president, Ana said – because she knew that Joseph R. Biden supports the program, while Trump doesn't. "It affects her personally," she said.
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