One thing was clear in Tuesday’s primary election: Georgia did nothing to change a reputation for problematic elections. Even with a record number of absentee ballots –- more than 1 million were reported cast – waits of longer than four hours to vote were reported from polling stations in the Atlanta metro area. The headline atop the front page of Wednesday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution called it a “Complete Meltdown.”
What appeared likely were Aug. 11 runoffs between the top two finishers in races where no candidate won a majority.
As Tuesday became Wednesday, Jon Ossoff displayed electoral strength in counties statewide but remained short of the majority he needed for an outright win in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary. With 72 percent of the vote counted, Ossoff held 48.3 percent, against Teresa Tomlinson at 15 percent and Sarah Riggs Amico at 13.2 percent.
The eventual winner will face Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue, who is seeking a second six-year term in November’s general election.
In 2017, the 33-year-old Ossoff, who is Jewish, spent $30 million and but fell short of a majority needed to win the 6th Congressional District seat outright in the all-parties “jungle primary,” and in the end lost a runoff to Republican Karen Handel.
By 1 a.m. Wednesday, more than 83 percent of the vote had been reported in the 7th Congressional District, which covers much of Gwinnett County and the southern half of Forsyth County, featuring multiple candidates in both the Republican and Democratic primaries.
On the Republican side, emergency room Dr. Rich McCormick held 52.7 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff against state Sen. Renee Unterman, who is Jewish, and trailed with 20.6 percent.
In the Democratic race, Georgia State University professor Carolyn Bourdeaux – who narrowly lost to retiring Republican Rep. Brad Woodall in 2018 – held 45.8 percent of the vote, which would land her in a runoff, against state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero, who held 14.6 percent, or political activist Nabilah Islam, with 12.7 percent.
In the 6th District Republican primary, with 58 percent of the vote counted, Handel held 72 percent against four challengers in her quest for an electoral rematch with Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath, who unseated Handel in 2018. The 6th is carved from eastern Cobb County, northern DeKalb County and northern Fulton County.
Tuesday’s primary was the first statewide use of the new, $104 million voting machines, computer screens that produce a paper ballet placed into a scanner. Throughout the day, metro Atlanta counties pointed fingers at the secretary of state’s office, and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pointed back at the complaining counties over issues including poll workers who did not knew how to handle people voting in-person because their absentee ballot never arrived, incorrect codes to operate the machines and the inexperienced poll workers unfamiliar with the machines operation.
These issues were compounded by fewer polling stations statewide than in recent elections, which shifted voters to unfamiliar polling stations, and fewer experienced poll workers from the ranks of senior citizens concerned about contracting COVID-19.
At some metro area polling stations, voters endured hours in high humidity and thunderstorms that raked the metro area in the late morning and throughout the afternoon. Polls were to have closed at 7 p.m., but a combination of problems forced Fulton County, long a hot bed of troubled elections, to allow anyone in line as of 9 p.m. to vote, while Cobb County kept 19 polling station open until 8 p.m.
All of this left voters and political partisans concerned about the Nov. 3 general election.
Georgia’s Democratic presidential preference primary was no contest, as former vice president Joe Biden was the lone candidate of 12 on the ballot whose campaign remained active. With 77 percent of the Democratic vote counted, Biden had captured 83 percent.
In the 5th Congressional District, 80-year-old incumbent Democrat Rep. John Lewis won 84 percent of the primary vote as he seeks an 18th term in Congress, despite receiving treatment following a diagnosis of Stage IV pancreatic cancer. Lewis will face Republican Angela Stanton-King in the general election. The 5th takes in central Fulton County, including the city of Atlanta, as well as pieces of DeKalb and Clayton counties.
In the 4th District, incumbent Democrat Rep. Hank Johnson was holding 59 percent of the primary vote as he seeks an eighth term. The 4th is made up of Rockdale County and parts of DeKalb, Gwinnett, and Newton counties.
In the 11th District, former WGST radio host Dana Barrett, who is Jewish, was unopposed in the Democratic primary and will face incumbent Republic Rep. Barry Loudermilk in the general election. The 11th takes in Cherokee and Bartow counties, and part of Cobb County in the northwest metro area.
In the 13th District, with 62 percent of the vote counted, Democratic incumbent Rep. David Scott held a fraction under 50 percent, which would not be enough to avoid a runoff against leading challenger Keisha Waites, who had 30 percent. Becky Hites was comfortably ahead in the Republican primary. The 13th takes in all of Douglas County and portions of Clayton, Cobb, Fayette, Fulton and Henry counties.
Of the two current Jewish members of the Georgia General Assembly, Democratic state Rep. Mike Wilensky, from Dunwoody, faced no primary challenge in the 79th District. Meanwhile, incumbent state Rep. Michele Henson, from Stone Mountain, faced multiple challengers in the Democratic primary in the 86th district, but less than 1 percent of the vote had been reported as of 1 a.m. Wednesday.