Anjali Enjeti | Longreads | December 2018 | 18 minutes (4620 words)
Early on November 6, Election Day, Kavi Vu noticed that some voters appeared distressed as they exited Lucky Shoals Park Recreation Center, one of five polling places in Gwinnett County, Georgia. A volunteer with the nonprofit, nonpartisan civil rights organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Atlanta (“Advancing Justice”), Vu had been standing outside to answer questions about voting and offer her services as a Vietnamese translator.
When she began asking the mostly African American, Asian American and Latinx voters about their voting experiences, she learned that after 2.5 hour wait times, many of them had voted via provisional ballots.
Why? As it turned out, Lucky Shoals was not their correct voting location. “A lot of people had lived in Gwinnett County their entire lives and voted at the same location and all of the sudden they were switched up to new location,” Vu said.
So when poll workers offered voters the option of voting at Lucky Shoals with provisional ballots, rather than driving elsewhere to wait in another line, the voters took them up on it. They left with I’m a Georgia Voter stickers, and printed instructions for how to cure their ballots. But poll workers didn’t verbally explain to the voters that they’d need to appear at the county registrar’s office within three days to cure their ballots, nor did the poll workers make it clear that the votes would not count at all if the voters failed to do so. What’s more, as the day wore on, poll workers ran out of the provisional ballot instructions altogether.
Vu was alarmed. In an attempt to reduce the number of voters using provisional ballots, she began offering to help voters locate their correct polling place using the Secretary of State website. That’s when poll workers repeatedly began confronting her about her presence outside of the polling place. “They told me to stop speaking with voters in line, even after I explained what I was doing.”
By mid-afternoon, Vu counted some 100 voters who had wrongly reported to Lucky Shoals. When she finally left eight hours after arriving, she was “heartbroken,” over the dreadful conditions at the polling place and the number of votes by minority voters that would likely never be counted.