DeKalb will give county employees paid time off to vote

Commission also approves resolution supporting elections materials in more languages

DeKalb County is now among the small handful of Georgia governments that gives workers paid time off to vote.

A resolution approved Tuesday by county commissioners means that all 6,000 or so DeKalb employees will receive four hours of PTO to vote in any primary, general election or runoff — either on the actual election day or during the advance voting period that precedes it.

It’s not quite the same as making Election Day a holiday, so county services, therefore, will not shut down altogether when an election rolls around.

But Commissioner Ted Terry, who championed the legislation, said it’s a good way to allow and encourage employees to do their civic duty while also, perhaps, giving other employers something to consider.

“We need to create more space, especially in metro Atlanta, for individuals that might have to travel a long distance” from work to vote, Terry said.

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The commissioner said DeKalb is now one of very few Georgia governments to guarantee paid time off for employees to vote.

The city of Clarkston, where Terry served as mayor, was believed to be the first to do so. All employees in the city of South Fulton get Election Day off too.

Terry first introduced his DeKalb County resolution in May, but the specifics took some time to hash out. Some commissioners raised questions about how such a plan would be implemented and if it was even necessary, given the lengthy, weekend-inclusive advanced voting periods that are generally offered ahead of elections these days.

But Tuesday’s vote was unanimous — and just one of several elections-related items that were adopted.

Other approved measures included $4.4 million in additional elections department funding. Officials said the money, which will come from general fund reserves, will help cover personnel costs, software upgrades and other equipment ahead of November’s election.

The county commission also approved an eight-month lease of the former Sam’s Club building in Stonecrest, which documents said will be used as “a warehouse and office space to facilitate county voter registrations and elections operations and/or other essential County activities.” The building, which is owned by the city of Stonecrest, has previously been used by the county as an advance voting location and for absentee ballot processing.

DeKalb will pay about $31,000 per month to use the facility.

The commission also voted to approve a “translation equity” ordinance that calls for elections materials to be provided in more languages.

DeKalb began offering sample ballots and other materials in Spanish and Korean in 2020, becoming the first Georgia county to do so voluntarily. The new resolution championed by Commissioner Larry Johnson takes things a step further.

Among several initiatives included in the resolution is a mandate that, by September 2023, county elections staff “review data on limited-English-proficient populations in DeKalb County” and identify any language group that has 1,500 or more residents that have limited English proficiency.

The elections office will then “provide a fully translated ballot and voting materials in those determined languages in all subsequent elections.”

Such a review would take place at least every three years.