MARIETTA — The Cobb County Board of Elections voted 4-1 Monday to approve its early voting plan for the November election, following an intense debate about Sunday voting between activists.
The board approved the plan recommended by Elections & Registration Director Janine Eveler, with two revisions. One revision adds Sunday voting on Oct. 30 from noon to 4 p.m. — Eveler had not recommended any Sunday voting options.
The second revision calls for staff to post signage and publicize the fact that the former elections office on Whitlock Avenue will not be used for early voting.
The revised plan, proposed by Jessica Brooks, the board’s Democratic Party appointee, passed 4-1. Pat Gartland, the board’s Republican Party appointee, voted against. Gartland had proposed adopting Eveler’s plan without revisions, but that failed for lack of a second.
The meeting attracted about 60 attendees, with dozens of public commenters arguing for or against Sunday voting. Supporters argued that Sunday voting increases access to the ballot box and enables flexibility for people with busy schedules. Opponents argued it would waste money and put further strain on the already understaffed elections office.
Due to the number of public commenters, the board reduced the time allotted to each from five minutes to two minutes. On several occasions, board Chair Tori Silas, appointee of the Cobb legislative delegation, called for decorum after outbursts from the crowd.
Fair Fight, the voting rights group founded by Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, urged Cobb residents to lobby the elections board to add Sunday voting ahead of the meeting.
Cobb GOP Chair Salleigh Grubbs said the board was being targeted by Fair Fight and the “extreme radical left.”
“Why would you, Cobb residents and part of our community, allow any entity taking millions of dollars from across the country to effectuate change in Cobb?” Grubbs asked.
“Since we are already understaffed, I believe this would simply increase the chance of fraud by either party in upcoming elections,” said Thomas Tucker, during public comment.
Marietta resident Sam Henderson said the board’s focus should be on voting access, not catering to conspiracy theories about fraud.
“I hope that our concern is less about fearful avoidance of circumstances and fraud that virtually never happens, and has been demonstrated to virtually never happen, and we focus a lot more on, how do we help all the perfectly legal, clearly registered voters vote, when many times they have crazy schedules and everything like that,” Henderson said.
Nancy Jo Kirk said that not everybody is fortunate enough to have time to vote on weekdays.
“I have a little bit of concern about people pointing to Sunday as a Sabbath day. And that is not the case for everybody,” Kirk said.
Jenny Carroll said the country is “in a recession, and the county should scale back its spending not ramp it up,” later adding that “the workers need Sunday off as a day of rest.”
And Claudia Falk, a Cobb elections worker, said she was at the meeting “to speak for the people who are in the trenches.”
“We’re all stressed. There’s been a lot of turnover among poll workers for Election Day, and dropping out,” Falk said.
In her presentation to the board, Eveler said it was difficult to staff Sunday voting due to the “wear and tear” on poll workers, some of whom have told her they won’t work Sundays.
She also presented data from other metro counties that offer Sunday voting, pointing out that in Fulton and Gwinnett, Sundays are some of the least popular early voting days.
“...The voters did not respond by using that opportunity to vote in nearly the same way that they did in other days, especially weekdays,” Eveler said.
Ahead of the meeting, Silas asked Eveler to crunch the numbers on having one Sunday of early voting, at one location, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eveler determined it would cost $4,765 to staff it. The board elected to go with that option, but from noon to 4 p.m. instead.
Board members received assurances from Eveler that staff would promote the new elections office and do their best to inform voters that the former elections office on Whitlock Avenue will not be used for early voting.
Eveler said the new elections office on Roswell Street has better security and enables people to line up inside. She believes it would be better to “go ahead and rip the Band-Aid off” by making the transition, even if many voters have gone to Whitlock for years as a habit.
There will be 13 early voting locations for the November election:
♦ The new Elections Main Office at 995 Roswell Street;
♦ East Cobb Government Center;
♦ Tim D. Lee Senior Center;
♦ North Cobb Government Center;
♦ Smyrna Community Center;
♦ Collar Park Community Center;
♦ South Cobb Regional Library;
♦ Ward Recreation Center;
♦ West Cobb Regional Library;
♦ Ben Robertson Community Center;
♦ Ron Anderson Recreation Center;
♦ Jim R. Miller Event Center.
There will be ballot drop boxes at the Main Office, East Cobb Government Center, North Cobb Senior Center, Smyrna Community Center, South Cobb Regional Library and Ward Recreation Center.
The Jim Miller Event Center is only being used for the last week of early voting, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 4.
All other locations are open for all three weeks of early voting, from Oct. 17 to Nov. 4. Early voting locations will be open Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Sunday, Oct. 30 early voting is only at the Main Office, from noon to 4 p.m.
In other business, the board approved three precinct changes. Due to concerns about voters being confused by the changes this election cycle, all three will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
Precinct Clarkdale 01 will be moved from Luke Garrett Middle School, 5325 Austell-Powder Springs Road, to Refuge Community Church, 4699 Ewing Road.
Precinct Smyrna 1A will be moved from Argyle Elementary, 2420 Spring Road, to Covenant Church, 3375 Atlanta Road.
Precinct Wade Green 02 will be split into two precincts due to overcrowding. Wade Green 01 will be created and be located at Christ Harvester Global Outreach Ministries, 885 Shiloh Road. Voters who are still in Wade Green 02 will continue voting at Christ Episcopal Church, 1210 Wooten Lake Road.