ATLANTA — Voters in one of the nation’s most closely watched governor’s races cast ballots Tuesday amid an ongoing dispute about one of the candidates’ management of Georgia’s elections system, leaving open the possibility that supporters on the losing side may not accept the outcome.
Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams are meeting in one of the signature contests of the 2018 midterm elections, with potential outcomes ranging from the election of America’s first black female governor to another four weeks of bitter, race-laden campaigning.
Adding to the Election Day drama, widespread reports of technical malfunctions and long lines at polling stations came in from across the state, with some voters reporting waits of up to three hours to cast ballots.
Voting hours were extended at a handful of precinct in metro Atlanta. A state judge ordered three precincts in suburban Gwinnett County — a populous swing county — to extend their polling hours, one of them as late as 9:25 p.m. An order issued in Fulton County Superior Court says three polling places must stay open late — two until 10 p.m.
The elections chief wasn’t immune to the difficulties: When Kemp went to cast his ballot, he had an issue with his voter card, but it was fixed quickly. He walked by reporters and said: “Take Two.”
In Cobb County, just outside Atlanta, Nicole Whatley planned to vote for Abrams, partly because “of this whole social divisiveness that’s been going on,” she said, as she stood in line to vote outside a library in a cold rain Tuesday morning.
Whatley, 33, said she didn’t appreciate how Kemp has adopted Trump’s rhetoric on immigration.
“Kemp tried to play that Trump card to get where he’s at,” she said, adding that Abrams, by contrast, highlighted unity. “Her campaign spoke about partisanship and bringing people back together,” Whatley said.
Her husband Lance Whatley, a 29-year-old software engineer, was leaning toward voting for Kemp as he waited. “It might be a game-time decision for me when I get in the voting booth,” he said.
Abrams, a 44-year-old Atlanta attorney, former lawmaker and moonlighting romance novelist would be the first black woman in American history elected governor in any state and the first woman or nonwhite governor in Georgia history. She’s already made history as the first black woman to be a major party gubernatorial nominee.
Kemp, a 54-year-old businessman and veteran secretary of state is vying to maintain the GOP’s hold on a state that is nearing presidential battleground status courtesy of its growth and diversity. Republicans have won every Georgia governor’s race since 2002.
Ballot access and election integrity flared up in the final weekend after a private citizen alerted the Georgia Democratic Party and a private attorney of vulnerability in the online voter database Kemp that oversees in his current job as secretary of state. Those private communications ended up with Kemp announcing, without providing any evidence, that he was launching an investigation into Georgia Democrats for “possible cybercrimes.”
Kemp pushed back Monday against concerns that his call for an investigation is politically motivated.
But Abrams would have none of that, declaring Kemp a “bald-faced liar” intent on deflecting attention from security problems with his system.