The Democratic Senate primary in Georgia was too early to call Wednesday, as Jon Ossoff held onto approximately 49 percent of the vote with more ballots coming in — amid widespread reports of hourslong lines, voting machine malfunctions, provisional ballot shortages and absentee ballots failing to arrive in time.
Ossoff, whose defeat in a 2017 special election was a gut-punch to Democrats who flooded his campaign with money, was leading Sarah Riggs Amico and Teresa Tomlinson. They each have roughly 13 percent of the counted vote, and candidates need 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.
One of the state’s largest counties, De Kalb in the metro Atlanta area, has yet to report any results as of early Wednesday.
As the night wound on, and races were also held in South Carolina, Nevada and West Virginia, it became evident that the long-standing nationwide wrangle over voting rights and election security had come to a head in Georgia — where a messy primary and partisan finger-pointing offered an unsettling preview of a November contest when battleground states could face potentially record turnout.
Joe Biden’s presidential campaign called the situation “completely unacceptable.” Georgia Republicans deflected responsibility to metro Atlanta’s heavily minority and Democratic-controlled counties, while President Donald Trump’s top campaign attorney decried “the chaos in Georgia.”
It raised the specter of a worst-case November scenario: a decisive state, like Florida and its “hanging chads” and “butterfly ballots” in 2000, remaining in dispute long after polls close. Meanwhile, Trump, Biden and their supporters could offer competing claims of victory or question the election’s legitimacy, inflaming an already boiling electorate.
At Trump’s campaign headquarters, senior counsel Justin Clark blamed Georgia’s vote-by-mail push amid the COVID-19 pandemic, alluding to the president’s argument that absentee voting yields widespread fraud.
“The American people want to know that the results of an election accurately reflect the will of the voters,” Clark said. “The only way to make sure that the American people will have faith in the results is if people who can, show up and vote in person.”
Rachana Desai Martin, a top Biden campaign attorney, called the scenes in Georgia a “threat” to democracy. “We only have a few months left until voters around the nation head to the polls again, and efforts should begin immediately to ensure that every Georgian — and every American — is able to safely exercise their right to vote,” she said.
Martin stopped short of assigning blame, but two Georgia Democrats on Biden’s list of potential running mates pointed at Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who led the selection of Georgia’s new voting machine system and invited every active voter to request an absentee ballot.