The Democratic Party of Georgia is putting the full force of its organization behind next month’s vote to expand MARTA in Gwinnett County.
The party said Tuesday it will dispatch field operatives, communications staffers and voter protection resources to support the March 19 referendum. It’s the most intense effort from the party yet to support the transit referendum.
Party chairwoman Nikema Williams said approving the expansion will help Gwinnett voters “build new economic mobility for our future.”
And Gwinnett supporters hope the reinforcements will boost turnout for a vote that would have had a better chance of passing if it was on the November midterm ballot rather than a March special election with lower turnout.
“Placing this election in an off month was a distinct effort to undermine voter turnout on an incredibly important local issue,” said Bianca Keaton, head of the county Democratic party. “This won’t stop Gwinnett Democrats from turning out in full force to support long-overdue MARTA expansion to our county.”
Gwinnett Commission Chair Charlotte Nash, the Republican largely responsible for the transit push, has said that calling the referendum for March was a compromise to get the consent of more fellow commissioners. Now-former Commissioner John Heard admitted at the time it was a "political compromise."
Transit supporters have sought to expand MARTA to Gwinnett for decades, and hope changing demographics, increasing gridlock and more efficient routes will help make their case. The last Gwinnett vote on the issue was in 1990, and it exposed deep divisions about race and class in what was then a largely-white county.
Prominent Democrats, including Stacey Abrams, have publicly championed the vote. No concerted Republican opposition has emerged and polls show a tight race. Turnout is hard to predict, though it’s expected to eclipse a typical special election.
A vote in favor would allow MARTA to take over Gwinnett’s transit services and develop plans for a possible passenger rail extension from the Doraville station into the Norcross area, along with a web of new bus routes. It would trigger a new 1 percent sales tax to pay for the projects.
Advance in-person voting for the special election starts Monday at the Gwinnett County elections office at 455 Grayson Highway in Lawrenceville. Voting will be held there every day between Monday and March 15, including weekends.
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