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New equipment, safety precautions lead to lines at some Newton County voting precincts
Voters at Library 2

Newton County's chief election official said she expected safety preparations for COVID-19 and use of unfamiliar equipment could create lines of voters on Election Day.

Angela Mantle, director of Newton County Elections and Registration, also said her staff had not experienced any other major equipment issues despite a situation which was "corrected" after slowing voting at one polling location for today's combined general primary, nonpartisan general election and presidential preference primary.

"Some of it's just little things, a lot of technical things," Mantle said. "It's new equipment. This is the first election we're on this equipment."

Only one device used to check voters' registration status -- part of the state's Dominion Voting Systems equipment being used for the first time in many Georgia counties today -- was being used around mid-morning at the Newton County Library polling place. Poll manager Layarette Lucas asked voters in line to be patient as she awaited a second "poll pad" device.

A lengthy ballot may have played a part as well. Voters chose from among candidates for hotly contested county, state and federal offices and judgeships as well as presidential candidates.

Billy Bouchillon and wife, Kathy, stood in a line in which voters using social distancing led to it snaking along the length of the library building. 

He said they had waited for about an hour to vote and felt bad for voters who were pregnant or unable to stand for long periods of time.

However, Bouchillon also said he enjoyed using the new Dominion equipment. The voting system uses a touch screen to create a paper ballot that allows voters to review their choices before the ballot is inserted into a scanner to be counted. It replaced the computer-based touch screen machines the state used for almost two decades. 

Mantle said she was unsure if voting would be lighter than normal today at the county's 22 voting precincts after many Newton voters took advantage of the Secretary of State's effort to encourage absentee voting by mail because of COVID-19 safety concerns. 

She said her office issued 18,000 absentee by mail ballots -- more than four times the average for a primary or presidential election. It had received 13,000 completed absentee ballots by late morning. The office also provided a drop box for the ballots.

An additional 3,461 voted in person during the three-week early voting period, she said.

Voting was taking place through 7 p.m. today. Newton County has about 78,000 registered voters, an election official said.