Georgia’s third-largest county to slash voting precincts by more than half ahead of runoff

Voters in parts of Georgia waited up to 10 hours to vote in the initial days of early voting for the presidential election, Newsweek reported. Now Georgia election officials are all but assuring another round of lengthy waits for the state’s upcoming runoff election.

Early voting starts Saturday, and just days earlier, officials decided to cut the number of voting precincts by more than half in the state’s third-largest county, local nonprofit and advocacy groups reported. Where 11 precincts once served Cobb County, which is just west of the state’s most populous county Fulton, now Cobb County residents will only have five places to vote early if all goes as planned. Voting rights advocates are doing everything in their power to make sure all does not go as planned. 

The Georgia runoff is Jan. 5. Click here to request an absentee ballot. Early in-person voting starts Dec. 14. 

The Georgia NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and four other nonprofit and advocacy organizations sent a letter to both elected and county elections officials in Cobb County informing them that the planned closure could potentially suppress the Black and Latino vote in the county. “While these closures are likely to adversely affect many Cobb County voters, we are especially concerned that these closures will be harmful to Cobb County’s Black and Latinx voters because many of the locations are in Black and Latinx communities,” the organizations said in the letter.

They went on to state:

“Advance voting opportunities are vital to ensuring voters can safely, securely, and freely participate in our democracy. The COVID-19 pandemic, which is ravaging the nation, has had extremely harsh effects in Black and Latinx communities and makes in-person voting on Election Day an untenable option for many voters. Moreover, due to widespread concerns with the reliability of the United States Postal Service, many voters are not comfortable requesting or casting absentee ballots by mail. As demonstrated by the record turnout during the advance voting period for the 2020 general election, advance voting is the only acceptable option for safe and secure voting for many voters.”

Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler said during a county legislative delegation meeting on December 1 her department has struggled to staff polling sites during the winter holiday, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which initially reported the news. “We just could only staff the five locations,” Eveler said.

So local voting rights workers offered to help. “These concerns can be easily addressed and our organizations stand ready to provide you with any assistance you require, including help recruiting and training poll workers or poll managers,” activists said in the letter. It was signed by representatives from the state NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, All Voting is Local Georgia, the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, Black Voters Matter Fund, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. 

Thank you @DrJasonJohnson for having me on the show on @MSNBC. Thank you for being such an excellent host and asking substantive questions about the things that really matter in this election cycle. @BlackVotersMtr

— LaTosha Brown (@MsLaToshaBrown) December 5, 2020

LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said she predicted that election officials would start closing polls in Georgia when she appeared on MSNBC over the weekend. She said to viewers on her Twitter timeline Tuesday that it’s not that she’s psychic. “It’s just that the Republicans are quite consistent about two things—racism and voter suppression,” she said. Brown told viewers to “pay attention” because “these folks are literally trying to steal, really and undermine democracy.”

Republicans ain’t gonna do right! I told y’all on ⁦@MSNBC⁩ to expect the closing of polling sites in GA to restrict voting access. As predicted they’re planning to close over HALF of the polling sites in Cobb County for early vote. They’re shameless! But we are determined.

— LaTosha Brown (@MsLaToshaBrown) December 8, 2020

RELATED: Voter suppression: Cobb County cuts more than half of early voting sites for January 5 GA runoff

Let’s give GOP Leader Mitch McConnell the boot! Give $4 right now so McConnell can suffer the next six years in the minority.

Wednesday, Dec 9, 2020 · 7:59:05 PM +00:00 · Lauren Floyd

Cobb County election officials told WABE radio, Atlanta’s NPR affiliate, that it will add two more early voting sites back and change the location of another site. The new poll locations will be at the Smyrna Community Center and the Arts Place-Mountain View art center. The site at the Ward Recreation Center will instead move to the Ron Anderson Community Center in Powder Springs.

Cobb County, Georgia is now urging voters to use absentee ballots and drop boxes, after the county reduced voting locations for the US Senate runoffs. Cobb is also adding some locations & staff after some voters & groups complained about the reductions.

— Brendan Keefe (@BrendanKeefe) December 9, 2020

Wednesday, Dec 9, 2020 · 11:31:32 PM +00:00 · Lauren Floyd

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund said in a press release Wednesday that the changes are “not optimal” but “substantial improvements over the original plan.” Michael Pernick, the Georgia state lead with the Defense Fund, called the Ron Anderson Community Center and Smyrna Community Center “key early voting sites for voters of color.”

“Ahead of the Jan. 5, 2021 runoff election, we encourage Georgia voters to verify their early voting sites and ballot drop off locations, and to make a voting plan,” he added. “As always, LDF will continue to hold officials accountable for ensuring that elections are safe, fair, and accessible to all voters.”

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