Meltdown: Tech issues, WiFi fumbles, the strong turnout most expected all collide on day one of advance voting. Floyd voters said ‘not again’ amid two-, three-hour waits.

Meltdown: Tech issues, WiFi fumbles, the strong turnout most expected all collide on day one of advance voting. Floyd voters said ‘not again’ amid two-, three-hour waits.

4:25 p.m. Monday: The line outside the administration building at 4:25 p.m. (advance voting is scheduled to end at 5 each day). Wait times are ranging from two to three hours at the admin building and Garden Lakes Baptist Church. Contributed photo.
2 p.m. Monday: No improvement from the midday photos of the lines of people seeking to vote in advance at the administration building on Monday. Contributed photo.
11:50 a.m. The first two photos are from the administration building at First Street and Fourth Avenue, the first from First Street and then from Fourth Avenue. Hometown photos.

At Garden Lakes: The crowd outside the baptist church in West Rome at 12:10 p.m. Monday, the first image from the parking lot off Redmond and the second from the western parking lot of the church. Hometown photos.


ABOUT MONDAY’S MELTDOWN
The start of the next phase of the most anticipated election in decades came with the expected delays, computer glitches and other problems that have marked Floyd County elections for nearly two decades. In recent years, those surprises have come on election day itself and then with vote counts that went on for two days earlier this year as the county was unprepared for the avalance of absentee votes even as they flooded into the office weeks before.
Monday was different. It was opening day for advance voting where those hoping to miss the election day lines merged with others not trusting absentee ballots even though 14,000 of those have been requested in Floyd County already.
Soon after advance voting began at the Floyd County Administration Office in downtown Rome and at Garden Lakes Baptist Church in West Rome, there were problems. Luke Martin, chair of the Floyd County Republican Party, was among the first to share the headaches on Facebook: “Only 1 hour into the first day of early voting and Garden Lakes’ voting machines are already down.”
WiFi issues were reported at the church, which slowed a critical computer and other items needed to register and process voters. And then there was some last-minute tweak to iPads that weren’t subsequently tested. And then some issues with the Secretary of State’s office which, in recent votes, usually has deflected that back to the county voter offices.
And lines. And lines. And lines.
Angry voters didn’t hold back on Facebook. They made it clear they were fed up and amplified their disgust by not only stating how much time they spent in line but also — to their amazement — how few voters had gone before them because of the problems. These comments come from the five posts Hometown Headlines put up on Facebook (and our websites) starting at 9 a.m.
  • I waited in line here for 3 hours (11:15-2:18 p.m.) and was only the 154th vote cast. (downtown)
  • I was #106 at Garden Lakes Baptist Church and it took 3 hours! When I finally got up to the table, they brought out a second computer.
  • It took us over three hours at the downtown location (only voters 197 and 198!).
  • Instead of adopting a precinct to bring lunch to the workers, can people donate computers? Just kidding but please somebody buy some more.
  • They needed to open up more poll sites to vote because this is one of the biggest elections, and having computers ready to go!
  • Been here since 10:30 (it’s now 12:50)…. still haven’t voted.
  • Glad I’m dropping my ballot at the library.
  • My husband, daughter and I were at (the church) – my husband and I had to leave after waiting for 2 hours, my daughter stayed because it was her only day to vote and she was there for 3.5 hours.
  • Today would’ve been the easiest day for me to vote, for I have small children and I teach. I had to leave after an hour and half where the line hardly moved 😩 my husband and I are having to come up with a back up plan for voting.
  • You would think in the midst of a pandemic preparations could have been made to open more polling places, especially since many are now hesitant to vote by mail.
  • Liked it better at Civic Center.
  • 2-hour wait at 8 a.m.
  • WHY can Floyd County not get this right? It’s not like it was a surprise or anything?!
  • Did election officials not anticipate the impact of the holiday? I considered voting today but expected a high turnout and changed my plan.

This morning, we’re getting reaction from this outtake in an ABC News story about Floyd’s election woes on Monday. Click here for the full story:

A problem with the electronic pollbooks also slowed things initially at the two early voting locations in Floyd County, but it was resolved within about an hour, said Robert Brady, the county’s chief election clerk.

“Typically in Floyd County, you have a line that lasts five minutes. Today it’s taking up to 30 minutes,” Brady said around 11:30 a.m. “It’s because of the huge — and I’m talking about huge — turnout.”

But Lesli Terrell-Payne, who celebrated her 51st birthday Monday by taking the day off to vote, said she waited for more than three hours after arriving at Garden Lakes Baptist Church in Rome around 10:30 a.m. There was only one electronic pollbook to check people in, which seemed to cause a bottleneck, she said.

Brady didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment on the long lines later in the day.

There definitely were problems on the state level, in part because of a record turnout of 110,000 advance voters on Monday.

 

By late afternoon, Dr. Melanie Conrad, one of three members on the Floyd County Board of Elections, posted the following statement:
Floyd County voters! Before you start getting angry and pointing fingers, here is what is happening:
1. Voter turnout is REALLY high. We tried to address this by offering two early voting locations.
-Solution: You don’t have to vote today. Floyd County has established the most accessible early voting for any county our size in the state. We offer two locations for early voting from now until Oct. 30. We are also offering two Saturdays and two Sundays of early voting at two locations. Legally we are only required to offer one Saturday (and that is what a lot of counties in Georgia are doing).
-If you requested an absentee ballot, use it to vote. People who request an absentee ballot but decide they want to vote in person actually slow the in-person voting down because we need to change their status in the PollPad.
2. The ballot is LONG and includes three constitutional amendments that need to be read. Reading them on the voting machines slows this process down considerably.
-Solution: Read the ballot and make your choices before you go to the voting location.
3. The device (PollPad) used to check in voters had changes made to it by the vendor since last Friday. It is not allowing consistent access to the list of registered voters. This is a statewide issue, not just Floyd County. From personal experience, I hate this piece of equipment. From a hardware perspective, it is very glitchy. You look at it funny and it malfunctions.
-Solution: Complain to the Secretary of State and governor. They are the ones who chose price over reliability when selecting the new equipment. Complaining to your local BOE is just preaching to the choir.
4. There were WiFi issues at (Garden Lakes) This has been accompanied by the weird slowdown in our internet that we have already been dealing with. This is probably weather related.
-Solution: We have added a hotspot to this location.
I know in the past some of you have liked to point fingers at a particular person (and I have joined you in that). This time you would be pointing the wrong way. If you want to be part of the solution, even in a small way you can help out our poll workers by adopting a precinct on Election Day. See the link below for how you, your restaurant, church, or organization can do that.

SO WHAT’S NEXT:

We’ll be tracking today’s vote, including lines and delays. Also, you might want to attend Thursday’s Board of Elections meeting. We’re planning a live report.

Elections board meeting moves to noon Thursday: The Floyd County Board of Elections and Registration meeting set for Tuesday has moved to Thursday and also will  be held at a new venue the Berry Shorter Room of the Forum River Center in Rome. The agenda:

Public Comments (limited to 2 minutes per person)
Financial Report/Office Update

Early Voting updates
Absentee Ballots Updates
Updates on Absentee Ballot Processing Procedure
1. Worker specifically for that task and that task only.
2. Train a team of 6-8 people who would open and organize the ballots
3. PollWorker Training Dates – New Poll Workers and Veteran Poll Worker Specific
4. Signage/location of Barkers Poll
5. Election Day Communication
D. Poll Worker Training/Staffing

Adopt-a-Precinct

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