GA Primary Meltdown: Ossoff Leads Senate Race, Handel Rematch

Jim Massara

GEORGIA — Results were slow to come in Tuesday night for Georgia's primary election after multiple precincts had to extend their hours because of problems with voting machines. That meant no clear winners were named in state races as of 2 a.m. on the secretary of state's website, but media trackers had unofficial wins in some major races.

As of 2 a.m. a winner had not been declared in the Democratic race to face GOP incumbent Sen. David Perdue. With 86 percent of precincts reporting, Jon Ossoff had 48 percent of the vote and led seven other candidates vying for the Democratic nomination, AJC.com said. Teresa Tomlinson carried 15 percent of the vote, while Sarah Riggs Amico had 13 percent.

The Georgia Secretary of State's website didn't update results for four hours, freezing at about 10 p.m.

The last precinct to close in DeKalb County — one of 43 in metro Atlanta kept open after 7 p.m. — shut down at 10:10 p.m. Georgia’s primary elections experienced a meltdown Tuesday throughout metro Atlanta, as new voting machines and pandemic restrictions led to long lines, late voting and blame all around.

(See results from the Georgia secretary of state's office at the bottom of this story.)

Shortly after 7 p.m., the Associated Press used exit polls to declare President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden winners of their parties' nominations. Results posted on the Georgia Secretary of State's website confirm this, with Trump unchallenged and Biden carrying 84 percent of the Democratic vote. Bernie Sanders is a distant second among Democrats, with 9 percent of the vote. All other Democratic candidates carried 2 percent or less.

Forty-three precincts in Atlanta’s core counties — Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett — had to stay open past 7 p.m. to accommodate voters who otherwise couldn’t have cast ballots. One precinct in DeKalb County was scheduled to remain open past 10 p.m.

Some poll workers had to sit out the election because of the threat of COVID-19. Many of those who remained weren’t trained sufficiently to operate pricey new voting machines introduced by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to ensure election integrity.

Add to that pandemic restrictions that reduced the number of polling places, along with more voters inspired by recent protests — and you had a perfect storm of chaos.

Here are voting results so far in several other races:

U.S. House District 6 — With 76 percent of the vote from 73 precincts reporting, Republican candidate Karen Handel appeared to cruise to an easy win over four other candidates vying for the nomination. Handel earned a rematch with Democrat Lucy McBath, who took the seat from her in 2018.

U.S. House District 7 — Republican Rich McCormick was declare the winner by the Associated Press with 55 percent of the vote among seven candidates, including Renee Unterman and Eugene Yu. McCormick will face Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux in the general election. She had a commanding 46 percent of the vote among six Democratic candidates.

U.S. House District 9 — The AP said the race for the Republican nomination in this district north of Atlanta is headed for an August runoff. With 35 percent of precincts reporting at 10:30 p.m., Matt Gurtler leads with 22 percent of the vote, Andrew Clyde has 19 percent, Kevin Tanner has 16 percent, Paul Broun has 13 percent, and John Wilkinson has 12 percent, AJC.com reported. The seat is being vacated by Trump supporter Doug Collins, who will run against Kelly Loeffler in November for one of Georgia's U.S. Senate seats.

U.S. House District 14Marjorie Greene, who posted campaign videos where she carried semiautomatic guns and warned Antifa to "stay the hell out of northwest Georgia," will advance to a runoff election. A group of eight Republicans sought the nomination to replace incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, who announced last year he would step down. With 70 percent of precincts reporting at 1:30 a.m., Greene held 40 percent of the vote. Her nearest competitor is John Cowan, with 19 percent of the vote.

Controversy On Polling Problems

By midday, both Raffensperger and House Speaker David Ralston had announced separate investigations into voting problems in Fulton and DeKalb counties. In return, DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond and the Georgia Democratic Party blamed the secretary of state’s office.

In fact, everyone involved may share some blame, according to Emory University political scientist Andra Gillespie.

"Given Fulton County's history of election-day issues, they will be perceived as having to bear responsibility for a lot of the problems," Gillespie wrote to Atlanta TV station 11Alive. "That doesn't necessarily give Secretary Raffensperger a free pass. Public opinion may not look favorably on the appearance of scapegoating."

Georgia’s quarrels over election integrity are especially important in 2020. While Georgia has been reliably red for many years, dissatisfaction with Donald Trump, continued racial tensions and two Senate seats in play threaten to flip it blue, according to The New York Times.

That’s why the hottest elections in Tuesday’s primary are for the U.S. Congress. Among them:

  • Jon Ossoff, who is expected to win the Democratic nomination to run against incumbent U.S. Senator David Purdue. If Ossoff doesn’t receive a majority of votes, Sarah Riggs Amico and Teresa Tomlinson are likely to challenge him in an August runoff.
  • Georgia’s 9th and 11th districts, both north of Atlanta, have crowds of Republican candidates vying to replace two outgoing incumbent representatives.
  • Georgia’s 6th district in Atlanta’s northern suburbs where former Secretary of State Karen Handel and four other Republicans are competing for the nomination to oppose Democrat Lucy McBath, who unexpectedly beat Handel in 2018.

This article originally appeared on the Across Georgia Patch