New GPB Podcast Looks At How Voting Should Work
With six weeks to go until Election Day, more than 1 million absentee ballots are already in the mail. After the June 9 primary, where some metro Atlanta voters waited in line for hours, all eyes have turned to Georgia and its new voting system. GPB political reporter Stephen Fowler talks with Morning Edition host Leah Fleming about his new podcast called “Battleground: Ballot Box," which explores how your vote is counted.
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The following is a transcript of the interview. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Leah Fleming: This is GPB, I'm Leah Fleming. We are six weeks away from Election Day, and more than a million absentee ballots are already in the mail. After the June 9th primary, where some metro Atlanta voters waited in line for literally hours, all eyes have turned to Georgia and its new voting system. To help make sense of it all, GPB is launching a new podcast. It’s called "Battleground: Ballot Box" that will explore how your vote is counted. Joining me now is the host of our new podcast, GPB political reporter Stephen Fowler. Hey, Stephen.
Stephen Fowler: Hi, Leah.
Leah Fleming: So in this first episode, we hear a powerful statement from Stacey Hopkins, a black woman in Atlanta who's had multiple issues with voting in the last few years.
Stacey Hopkins: It is so sad that we have reached the point we could no longer trust not only our elected officials, but we can't even trust the systems of our democracy here in Georgia.
Leah Fleming: So what are some of the biggest barriers to voting you will explore in the next few weeks?
Stephen Fowler: Well, Leah, on paper, it seems like it's very easy to vote in Georgia but, in reality, that's not the case for many people. You've got issues with absentee by mail voting, record absentee by mail voting, distrust of a new electronic voting system that has a paper ballot that's printed out, issues with voter registration, and a number of lawsuits that are challenging all aspects of how we vote. And so in this podcast series, we're going to talk about all of those. But more importantly, we're going to talk about solutions or steps to fix the problems or things that you can do as a Georgia voter to make sure that no matter which method you choose, your vote is safe and secure and counted in this upcoming election.
Leah Fleming: OK, yeah, I know a lot of people have been concerned about even putting their ballots in the mail. Just so much confusion about that. In the June primary, there were problems with voting machines, long lines at the polls, and with absentee ballots. In your reporting, what changes have been made to now minimize those issues?
Stephen Fowler: That's right, Leah. The June primary did have a lot of failures and kind of egg on the face of county elections officials and the Secretary of State's office. But there have been changes. Fulton County, for example, is having 50% more polling places than they did in June because of the coronavirus. They have 30 early voting locations, including one mega polling place at State Farm Arena that's going to have 300 machines for people. The state has revised some of its absentee ballot procedures, more clarifying what counts as a vote — fill in that absentee oval all the way — as well as extended provisions like secure drop boxes for people to hand-drop-off their absentee ballot without having to use the mail or go in person. And there've been other trainings and other things going on to really make sure that all facets of the electoral process will run smoother because there's going to be a lot more people voting in this election.
Leah Fleming: In historic numbers. And also people need to be trained. Poll workers need to be trained ahead of time. And I know we've — we've reported on that, that poll workers are going to get proper training.
Stephen Fowler: That's right. You know, poll workers are the backbones of the election. They're the ones that help check you in, help answer any questions, help make sure machines don't have problems. And we've had thousands and thousands of people step up since the primary and say, 'I'd like to be trained, I want to know more, I want to help out.' And so that's going to be another good thing.
Leah Fleming: Yeah. Finally, Steven, what other topics can we expect to learn about in the next few weeks in this podcast?
Stephen Fowler: Well, we're going to touch on pretty much every part of Georgia's voting system. I'm going to get trained as a poll worker. We're going to talk to lawyers about the court system. We're going to talk to experts about vote-by-mail and voter registration. And we're going to hear about all different parts of the state's election system from when the first ballot is made until the last vote is counted and certified and we know who won. So it's going to be a great journey through everything you would need to know about Georgia's election system to feel confident in November's vote.
Leah Fleming: Alright. That's GPB’s Stephen Fowler, host of the new podcast. It's called Battleground: Ballot Box. You can subscribe at GPB.org/Battleground. The new first episode is up right now. So do check it out and get prepared as we get into this election season even more. Thanks so much, Stephen, for your time.
Stephen Fowler: Thanks for having me.
Leah Fleming: This is GPB.