ATLANTA (CN) — Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican, appears to have defeated Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams Tuesday night in a closely watched gubernatorial race.
Kemp, who became the subject of numerous voter suppression allegations and lawsuits throughout the campaign, secured the win with 52.7 percent of the vote with 92 percent of precincts reporting at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night. Abrams received 46.3 percent of the vote.
Abrams made history as the first black woman ever to become a major party candidate for governor in the United States.
Although Georgia Democrats were hopeful that a win in Fulton County and other suburban Atlanta counties might help shift the numbers in Abrams’ favor, her success in those counties was overwhelmed by Kemp’s strong performance in Georgia’s rural areas.
The race between the two candidates was a virtual dead heat throughout the early voting period. The candidates polled within one or two points of each other in the weeks before Election Day.
Election Day in Georgia was plagued by hours-long lines, malfunctioning voting machines and rampant delays in the morning.
Voters at West Hunter Street Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta waited over an hour to vote Tuesday morning. The polling place, located in Fulton County, had just four voting machines available when the polls opened at 7 a.m.
According to Common Cause Georgia, a government watchdog group, the average wait time to vote in the Atlanta metro area was three hours.
The excessive wait times join a long list of voting issues that forced Georgia into the national spotlight during the election.
In October, thousands of voter registrations and hundreds of absentee ballots were rejected under Georgia’s exact match law, which requires information on voter registrations and absentee ballots to exactly match information contained in government databases.
The controversial law became the subject of multiple lawsuits filed by civil rights organizations. Two weeks before Election Day, a federal judge issued an injunction blocking Georgia’s election officials from rejecting absentee ballots under the exact match law.
The allegations of voter suppression against his office led voter advocacy groups and prominent Democrats to call for Kemp to resign from his position as secretary of state.
Kemp refused to step down.
A last-minute lawsuit filed in federal court Tuesday by Protect Democracy, a nonprofit group, asked a judge to disqualify Kemp from counting or certifying ballots in the governor’s race. The plaintiffs, which include LaTosha Brown of Black Voters Matter and Atlanta City Councilwoman Jennifer Ide, claim that Kemp should not “be a judge in his own matter.”
Rashawn Fris voted for Abrams at the West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta Tuesday evening. The 40-year-old said his decision was motivated in part by Kemp’s refusal to step down as secretary of state during the campaign.
“It’s a definite conflict of interest. How are you running and you’re in charge of who’s able to vote? That’s crazy to me,” Fris said.
Voting hours were extended in three Gwinnett precincts that experienced technical issues and delays Tuesday.
At Anderson Livsey Elementary School in Snellville, Georgia, a polling place in Gwinnett County, voting machines shut down early Tuesday morning when the battery power supply to the machines ran out.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the polling place did not have power cords to plug the machines into a power source.
In response to the delays, the NAACP filed several lawsuits Tuesday citing power outages and “mismanagement” at multiple polling places. A Fulton County superior court judge ordered three Fulton County precincts to extend their hours past the scheduled 7 p.m. closing time.
Polling places at Booker T. Washington High School, where election officials ran out of provisional ballots twice, and Morehouse College, where students who were registered to vote were reportedly not found on the voter rolls, were both forced to remain open until 10 p.m.
Pittman Park Recreation Center was ordered to stay open until 9 p.m. Until 11 a.m., the location had only three voting machines available, causing voters to wait for hours.
Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron said at a press conference Tuesday that election staffers had entered the wrong registration number into the assignment, causing the county to send an incorrect number of voting machines. Five more voting machines were sent to the Pitman Park precinct around 11 a.m.
Rev. Jesse Jackson called the mistake “a classic example of voter suppression” in a statement on Facebook and went to the precinct to encourage voters to stay in line.
“We won’t allow anyone to steal our rights or our democracy,” Jackson said.
But by mid-day, many precincts received extra voting machines, technical issues were smoothed out, and long lines began to dissipate.
Curtis Duncan, a 37-year-old senior center program director, voted in Rockdale County around 3 p.m. and said he only had to wait five minutes to vote.
He said he was “disappointed” at the delays in other counties, “especially knowing the importance of this, and any other, election.”
“We’ve got to do better,” Duncan said.