ATLANTA (AP) — When Barbara Williams arrived at the Pittman Park Recreation Center just before noon on Election Day to cast her vote, she saw a line so long that the end wasn’t in sight.
“There were so many people, you couldn’t count them,” Williams recalled. “They were looped around. The line started at the door and it snaked around to the left.”
She ultimately waited four hours to use one of the three voting machines at the precinct where the 58-year-old retiree has voted in every election since she turned 18. Others reported similar challenges to voting at Pittman Park, located in the heart of Atlanta’s oldest black neighborhood: Hours-long waits and voters leaving in frustration. For Williams and others who sought to vote at Pittman Park, the hurdles echoed a long history of voter suppression unfolding in a race in which Democrat Stacey Abrams is seeking to become the nation’s first black female governor.
“I feel like they didn’t want her to win,” Williams said of Abrams. “They made things so that we would get aggravated and people would leave.”
The race between Abrams and her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, is still too close to call five days after the election. Kemp has denied any attempt to suppress the vote. But his background as someone who, as secretary of state, deleted inactive voters from registration rolls and enforced an “exact match” policy that could have prevented thousands from registering to vote, has brought the issue of minority access to the polls to the forefront.
That’s especially true at Pittman Park, which has long been a center of black civic and community life. Many residents learned to swim there at the only pool they were allowed to use during the segregation era. Today, it offers after school care, classes for seniors and a space for local meetings.