Footage showing long lines of enthusiastic early voters in a Georgia county drew predictable cries of “voter suppression” from Democrats and Twitter pundits, while election experts said such allegations were baseless and lacked context.
A 70-second video of the line to cast early votes at Gwinnett County station on Monday, shared by an Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter, had racked up over 7.5 million views on Tuesday, with plenty using the footage of those waiting to decry the system.
The line of voters at George Pierce Park in Suwanee…. pic.twitter.com/3stVPEuyZp
— tyler, the reporter (@ByTylerEstep) October 12, 2020
Democrats seized on the opportunity as a PR stunt to promote their own legislation and cast the long line as evidence of Republican voter suppression.
“Republicans have spent decades making it harder for Americans to vote, and we’re watching the results play out in real time,” Senator Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) tweeted, pivoting to promote his own piece of legislation — which would pay voters $100 to wait in line for at least 90 minutes.
“Lines outside the Trump rally in Florida and lines outside polling places in Georgia both bring shame on the Republican Party,” Representative Ted Deutch (D., Fla.) said.
“These hours-long lines to vote are the *deliberate* design of gop leaders and rightwing judges to steal the voting rights of communities of color and a threat to democracy in every community,” Representative Bill Pascrell (D., N.J.) added.
Liberal political pundits and activists joined the chorus. “Want to guess which candidate won this area of Georgia on [sic] 2016. You already know the answer,” Obama digital alum Tim Fullerton tweeted — apparently unaware that Hillary Clinton won Gwinnett County in 2016 by six percentage points. Atlantic staff writer Anne Applebaum sarcastically remarked that the video was from “Georgia – the state, not the country.”
Former Obama ethics czar Walter Shaub compared the scene to his own experience: “This despicable disparity is on purpose. This is what voter suppression looks like,” he stated. A Google employee — a “Product Lead for Identity,” according to his LinkedIn profile — said that video proved why “everybody should be able to vote online.”
But none of the reactions made note of the fact that the Gwinnett line formed on the first day of early voting, after months of corporate hype about the importance of early voting, nor that it fell on a federal holiday. Neither was it mentioned that Georgia saw a record 126,876 people vote on Monday — a 41 percent increase over the first day in 2016.
Some tried to offer nuance on the viral clip. “Long lines in the first two hours of early voting are not actually indicative of a problem or too few polling locations. Do not cover them as if they are,” ProPublica reporter Jessica Huseman, who regularly covers elections and voter data, tweeted.
As independent journalist Jeryl Bier calculated, Gwinnett County’s nine early voting stations will be open from 7a.m. to 7p.m. for the next 19 days, amounting to over 1,800 hours of early voting time.
After former U.S. senator and current MSNBC analyst Claire McCaskill claimed that the video “is a picture of voter suppression,” Cook Political Report editor and election expert Dave Wasserman injected some context into the discussion.
1) Gwinnett Co., GA has *nine* advance voting centers open 9-12 hours a day, including weekends, between 10/12 and 10/30
2) This is the first day of in-person voting in the highest-enthusiasm election in GA history
Let's give it a few days before jumping to conclusions. https://t.co/BPjb4hIvvF
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) October 12, 2020
“Fair enough. But seems like folks were not prepared for this level of voting, and long lines are discouraging,” McCaskill responded.