Reporter’s Notebook: Young voters cast their first ballots — after some confusion

Hannah and Hallel Jackson head to their precinct to vote. (Credit: Nava Rawls)

May 24, 2024
Key Points
  • Some voters needed clarification with changing precinct locations on primary election day.
  • Despite issues, wait times at the correct precincts were often less than a minute.

The precincts throughout Smyrna were fairly uncrowded on primary election day. It was hot and humid throughout the afternoon, but 19-year-old voter Strawberry Baker decided to bear the heat to make their voice heard.

This was Baker’s second time voting in an election, and they had previously cast their ballot at the precinct at the Smyrna Community Center. This time around, they arrived to find that the center was not serving as a precinct and followed signs directing them to vote at a nearby church. 

When they arrived at the church and attempted to cast a ballot, Baker was told they were at the incorrect precinct.

Baker was frustrated about having to go to a third location and said they never received anything in the mail notifying them of a precinct change. 

Outside the precinct at Shiloh SDA Church where Baker was turned away, multiple people walked away holding filled-out voter cards, indicating they had also gone to the incorrect precinct.

However, when voters did locate the right precinct, wait times were often less than a minute, according to the Secretary of State.

Smyrna voters weren’t the only ones in Georgia who faced confusion on election day. 

Jori Hammond, a Clayton County voter (Credit: Tammy Joyner)

Jori Hammond of Clayton County was intent on voting in Tuesday’s primary, but to cast her ballot, she also had to be redirected.

“I’m at the wrong place,” Hammond, 56, said, frustration registering on her face. 

Hammond said she used to vote at Lovejoy Middle School but now needed to go to the Eddie White Middle Academy precinct. “My concern is nobody sent anything to my house,” she said.

Along with making sure her ballot was cast, Hammond also was concerned about the ballot of her husband, who is disabled.

“We contacted Clayton County,” she said. “They were supposed to be sending us things so he can vote, but they have not done that — because in November he needs to be heard.”

Being prepared

Twins Hallel and Hannah Jackson arrived at their precinct at Life Church in Smyrna, Georgia, with clear ideas of the issues and candidates they would support. This was the 20-year-olds’ first time voting in an election, and they were especially concerned about issues of mental health awareness and education.

“I want to use my voice, but I’ve never really been sure how, so this is kind of like the first step to being involved in the laws and the people that affect us and that affect Cobb County and the world,” Hallel Jackson said. “It’s cool being able to be a part of the process.”

Despite choosing a Democratic ballot, Hannah Jackson maintained that she wanted to keep an open mind when voting.

“I was really trying to be more ‘cup half full,’ really looking at all the different candidates,” she said. “Just looking at them for who they were and what they stood for, not trying to look necessarily just at the party they’re in, but then seeing if I liked what they were supporting.”

Election glitches

While Tuesday’s primary was relatively uneventful, it had a few bugs: 

  • The Georgia Secretary of State’s MyVoterPage was down for around 45 minutes Tuesday afternoon, limiting public access to information about polling locations and sample ballots.
  • Due to ongoing mail delays, state election officials recommended voters who cast absentee ballots check the Secretary of State’s ballot tracker to make sure their vote was received.

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You can reach Nava Rawls at [email protected] or on X @navarawls

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