Keli Benford, a veteran, stood in line for more than seven hours to cast her vote in Houston County in 2020.
Rebecca Thompson, a Forsyth County programmer, said information on how to cast an absentee ballot was so confusing that she had to spend lengthy amounts of time searching the internet.
Benford and Thompson joined two other Georgia voters, David Walker and Marvin Alexander, who shared their stories Sunday about problems they encountered during recent elections in Georgia and who also weighed in on the state’s controversial voting law that was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this year.
They were part of a roundtable led by Democrats U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and potential Georgia gubernatorial candidate and voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams at the Smyrna Community Center — which at times in the presidential election last year experienced long lines that frustrated some voters.
The event was not open to the public.
Klobuchar singled out Georgia among dozens of states that have either passed laws or are considering bills that voting rights advocates say would make it harder to vote and targets low-income and Black voters.
She called such efforts “discrimination with surgical precision” and include measures to “sow chaos and confusion and make it harder to vote.”
Merkley talked about the history of voting the the United States, which was once denied to Black residents and women.
Today, he said, he’s “astounded that we’re at this moment in history where the clock has turned back where poor Americans, Black Americans, Native Americans and college students who are being targeted in a systematic way to try to keep them from voting.”
He said events unfolding in Georgia are at the forefront of the battle for the right for everyone to vote.
In Georgia, voting rights advocates and some religious leaders have criticized the state’s new voting law, which they said will make it harder for residents to vote.
In the November election, a record number of Georgia residents voted using absentee ballots and voters turned the state blue.
So it’s not coincidental that the Republican-led Legislature came up with the new voting law, Abrams said.
“What I regret deeply is that, unfortunately, this seems to be a partisan conversation, but it’s not,” she said. “The process of electing our leaders is not a partisan process. Our selection may be be partisan, but our elections should not be. Our elections are how we determine the course and the quality of our democracy.”
However, supporters of the law say it will make elections more secure and actually increase access. Many proponents of the law echo former President Donald Trump’s false claim that there was widespread voter fraud.
Georgia resident Thompson has always voted in person. Last year, she didn’t because of concerns about COVID-19. She called the process “complicated.”
“I would love to see it easier to vote,” with greater access, fewer hurdles and better outreach, she said.
Alexander, who voted in Cobb County, faced long lines.
He arrived at his polling site at 7 a.m. but didn’t get to vote until nearly 1 p.m.
Leaving “crossed my mind for a minute,” said the U.S. Air Force veteran. “But I had to exercise my constitutional right to vote. It’s my right to do so. I can’t complain about something if I don’t vote.”
He said he “hates the new law” and the numerous audits of last year’s vote that he called a waste of money.
In Georgia and elsewhere, advocates are pushing for federal laws to protect voting rights. Merkley is one of the chief authors of sweeping federal election and voting legislation backed by Democrats, which is known as the For the People Act.