Columbus voter travels 600 miles to vote; blames alleged voter suppression

Columbus voter travels 600 miles to vote; blames alleged voter suppression

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Malfunctioning voting machines, missing power cords, and long lines at the polls are being scrutinized by candidates and election officials in Georgia, where the Governor’s race is still undecided.

One Columbus native said he was forced to travel hundreds of miles just to vote.

“It’s kind of crazy that this little sticker is North of $700 in terms of how much it costs to get," said Sam Shields.

In an election dubbed as monumental, Shields said he thought he wouldn’t be able to cast his ballot at all. After repeated attempts to get an absentee ballot, ‘clerical errors’ were reportedly preventing him from being able to vote. As an out-of-state college student at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, Shields says he took matters into his own hands.

He raised money the day of the election to catch a flight and a bus in order to vote in-person at his local Columbus precinct. “I felt wronged by the fact that I did everything right as far as getting my ballot in on time. From a voter suppression standpoint, it seems like that. It falls under that category,” said Shields.

Situations like Shields' are reportedly happening all across the state. Wednesday morning in a media phone interview, Lauren Groh-Wargo, Stacey Abrams for Governor campaign manager, spoke out about the various voting issues.

"From media recordings and our own internal data, there were a thousand rejected absentee ballots. A lot of these have been litigated with signature matching issues and erroneous rejections. So, we are looking at thousands of potential ballots from provisional to absentee,” said Groh-Wargo.

Abrams' legal team say they are actively investigating the voting issues. Shields says he wants to use his experience and situation to open a new door of new questions and conversations about the matter.

"I’m relieved that I was able to be a part of the historic election that’s historic for a number of reasons. I think about the privilege that I have in that too, I know that there are people that have been affected in this way who don’t have a community or financial means to fly down for a day. They can’t miss work. They can’t miss school,” said Shields.

Shields said he has used absentee ballot voting at least two other times without any issues.

He said he doesn’t know what went wrong, but does add that the local election officials were more than helpful at his polling location.

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