The seniors at Cosby Spear Memorial Towers had a smooth runoff election experience on Tuesday. It was a welcome sigh of relief after residents in Building B at the apartment complex in Old Fourth Ward had issues voting last month during the general election.
On Nov. 8, poll workers incorrectly redirected several of the mostly Black residents from Central Park Recreation Center — across the street from their home — to a voting precinct in Hapeville, 12 miles southwest of Atlanta. The Cosby Spear apartments are on North Avenue in Atlanta, which led advocates to suspect that a computer error confused their location with North Avenue in Hapeville. Poll workers weren’t able to resolve the issue for hours, multiple people told Capital B Atlanta.
At the time, a spokesperson with the Fulton County Board of Elections told Capital B Atlanta the issue had been resolved: “The Elections team has reached out to the Senior Facility to inform the residents that the matter has been resolved and will not be an issue during the December 6 Runoff Election.”
A representative with the secretary of state’s office did not respond to Capital B Atlanta’s request for comment.
Residents said that despite assurances from election officials after Nov. 8, there was still skepticism about how things would shake out for the runoff. Changes to voting rules under Georgia’s Election Integrity Act — aka SB 202, the law that created new restrictions, including when voters can cast provisional ballots — had Cosby Spear neighbors particularly concerned. However, less than a month later, many voters said they were able to cast ballots with relative ease.
One of those Cosby Spear residents was Adolph Lindsey. The 67-year-old Army veteran and Building A resident showed up at the Central Park rec center to vote in Tuesday’s runoff election. Lindsey said he had no issues on Nov. 8 and voted again with ease during the runoff. When he originally heard about voting issues for his neighbors, the southwest Atlanta native worried that new voting restrictions could make voting difficult for senior voters.
“[If the elderly] run into an issue, they’re more likely to throw their hands up and not vote,” he said.
Patricia Stevens lives in Building A, and originally hails from New York. She moved to Georgia in her mid-20s and said she has voted in every election since first setting foot on red clay. She typically gets around via a cane, but sometimes requires a wheelchair.
The 73-year-old hadn’t heard about the issues her neighbors experienced in the general election, but said seniors, including herself, are determined. “If I gotta get my chair up and ride on Ponce de Leon [Avenue], I’m gonna get my chair,” she said.
Stevens didn’t have her wheelchair or cane when she showed up to vote. She was accompanied by James Davenport, a resident of Cosby Spear and a voting rights advocate with grassroots organization Protect the Vote GA.
Davenport, a fellow Building A resident, was the first to flag that people were getting turned away from the Central Park rec center in November. He decided to act as a poll watcher for the Senate runoff election to ensure that his neighbors voted without issue.
“I wanted to make sure that if something goes wrong, I’m there,” he said. “[I wanted to] make sure that everybody was taken care of properly.”
But before Davenport started his shift, he experienced his own issues voting.
An apparent glitch with Davenport’s voting machine caused his screen to freeze when prompted to select which language he preferred. Instead, poll workers moved him to another machine before citing their system already showed a record of his vote being cast. However, on the second attempt with a different machine, Davenport was able to vote without issue.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s other people who experienced the same thing,” he said. “It was something that was weird.”
His own hiccup aside, Davenport said in the two hours he spent watching Central Park rec center, he didn’t see or hear of any problems. “It went very well, as far as anything happening out of the norm,” he said.