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DeKalb poll worker describes issues at her voting location, offers ways to improve for November

Danielle Mays said she's trying to raise the alarm now, because she wants to make sure every voice is counted in November.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — 11Alive is Where Atlanta Speaks, and when we invited you tell us about your experiences on election day, you shared them with us.

One of the most eye-opening emails we got was from a DeKalb County poll worker, Danielle Mays. She said she was so excited when she was selected to be an election volunteer Tuesday.

"This is my passion, my passion is voting, voting rights," she told 11Alive.

But, Mays said her expectation did not live up to reality. She recounted how she had to tell dozens of people they were at the wrong spot after their polling locations changed without notification. 

"It was so frustrating to me," she said. 

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She said people who had voted for years at her assigned location in Dunwoody had no idea their precinct had changed.

But not only were location changes an issue, long lines and supplies were, too. 

"They had to stand in line to vote, and then they had to stand in line to cast a provisional ballot. We ran out of paper ballots. So we had to tell people, 'look, we aren't able to take your paper ballot, it's going to take some time, you can wait, or you can try to find your polling place and go there'," she described.

"We ran out of paper," she added. "And if we run out of paper, guess what? We can't cast a ballot!"

RELATED: Fulton County commissioner says voting issues leave 'another black eye'

On top of not having enough paper to make it through the day, Mays said the polling location was also not provided any pens for voters to write with.

"I had to continuously remind people, 'please bring MY pen back.' And I didn't like to do that," Mays said. "I am sure they felt like, 'why don't you have pens for us to use?'"

But Mays said the problems didn't end there. She said when voting hours were extended at her location, no one told them to stay open later. 

"Communication to the managers is key. Why, at least, not send an email to the managers to let them know vital information, such as, 'hey, the state has decided to extend the times'," she questioned.

RELATED: Georgia primary election | Officials work through night to get results as system failures cause delays

Mays said she's trying to raise the alarm now, because she wants to make sure every voice is counted in November.

"I was so excited to go and help people, but November, I feel like if we do not get help now, and we don't get someone to pay attention and make some specific and very abrupt changes to the system, it's going to be even worse in November," she predicted.

RELATED: Secretary of State blames election day issues on county leaders, opens investigation into Fulton and DeKalb

Mays said she offered the county a 15-point plan on how it and the state could do better for the General Election. 

She said it starts with more staffing, but also includes better training for poll workers - Mays said she only had one day of in-person training and one virtual session to learn the new system. She also said it would be helpful to have dedicated workers to set up (the night before) and break down polling equipment, and having more experienced poll workers who may stay home because of COVID-19 be on stand-by to help answer questions or trouble shoot at a call center. Lastly - making sure there are enough supplies, including paper, pens, envelopes for paper ballots and hand sanitizer.

Most importantly, though, Mays said there needs to be emphasis placed on voting by absentee ballots.

RELATED: There's a lot of talk of voter suppression in Georgia. What exactly is it?

Dekalb County told 11Alive they'll investigate what happened after the election is certified and will address "all county-level issues related to the June 9 primary and special election" and added "any corrective measures will be implemented by the Aug. 11 runoff."

Mays said she thinks the whole state should investigate.

"This is something that I feel like should be the state's responsibility," she said. "I know they're trying to put all the blame on the counties, the counties hold some responsibility."

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