Anyone who listened to the radio or watched television leading up to the April 18 District 6 special election likely heard advertisements stressing the importance of residents getting to the polls and voting.
Some DeKalb residents took that message quite literally, which resulted in confusion on Election Day.
Maxine Daniels, director of voter registration and elections in DeKalb County, said thousands of voters were turned away April 18 after they found out they were in the wrong district to vote for the District 6 Congressional race.
“I’ve never experienced it like this before because there’s never been a race so widely publicized in a special election,” Daniels said. “Most of the ads said, ‘if you live in DeKalb, Fulton or Cobb [County] come out and vote.'”
Daniels said once she heard the advertisements she knew there would be a problem. In an effort to lessen confusion, voter registration officials posted the names of Hank Johnson and John Lewis on a poster of a districting map displayed to help residents understand which district they could vote in.
Even if voters lived in the 6th District and were able to vote, those who showed up at the county elections office were in the wrong location. Daniels said the voter registration and elections office in DeKalb is not a polling station on election day.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Daniels said. “We’ve taken shifts all day long. At one point, we had people that were very irate. It’s been a really tough road because of that. As I heard the commercials, I knew this was going to happen.”
With most polling stations closing at 7 p.m., groups of people were being told they could not vote because they were not residing in District 6 as late as 6:55 p.m.
Resident Francine Weaver, who lives near the Glenwood area, said she was frustrated by the process.
“I thought it was DeKalb County but [today] I was told that I live in the district of Atlanta and not in north DeKalb,” Weaver said. “This was a waste of gas and I wanted my vote to be counted. [Advertisements] told us if you live in DeKalb to vote, so I still don’t understand why I’m not allowed to vote.”
Monique Hobbs went to several polling stations before she realized that she was not eligible to vote in the District 6 special election.
“They should have been more clear. The communication should have been better. There are too many people that are willing to vote,” Hobbs said. “It’s my civic duty to vote. It’s not fair. That communication was not put out the way it should be.”
DeKalb resident Todd Goldsmith said it was also his civic duty to vote as a Black man, but was unaware that only voters residing within District 6 could vote.
“I woke up early this morning and went to my polling place and it was closed. So I came here and saw all the cars and thought ‘oh I am supposed to vote,’” Goldsmith said. “Then I found out it was just for District 6.”
Daniels said it’s voters’ responsibility to know which polling station to go to, but said she can sympathize with DeKalb residents that may have been confused by recent advertisements.
“It’s unfortunate for the voters because as you can see they were excited to come out and vote, but there was nothing for them to vote on,” Daniels said. “There’s some responsibility for the voters, but the biggest responsibility is on the campaign ads because they’re the ones that are misleading.”
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