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Why do voters in Georgia face so many hurdles to voting?

PARK TAVERN anchors the south-east corner of Atlanta’s charming Piedmont Park. It offers eclectic bar food, home-brewed beer, abundant outdoor seating, and a warm welcome to dogs. Like most bars, it usually comes to life in late afternoon. But on June 9th this year the queue stretched out of the door and round the building before 7am, and did not thin out until well after the dinner rush ended.

Atlantans were lined up not for Cowboy Rolls or (shudder) Unity Triple-Goddess Ginger Kombucha Beer. They were lined up to vote. No polling place served more Georgians in the June primary than Park Tavern, though the experience of waiting hours to cast a ballot was sadly common across the state. Whether this experience is repeated in November could matter a great deal.

In Georgia the secretary of state’s office certifies candidate eligibility, oversees voter registration and creates ballots, but leaves electoral administration to the state’s 159 counties—more than any state except Texas. The state maintains voter rolls, which many complain it does too rigidly, rejecting registrations, for instance, because, in the judgment of an election official, an applicant’s signature fails to precisely match a signature already on file. But counties choose and staff polling places, set electoral budgets and tabulate results.


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