Following ACLU complaint, Fulton to host voting on college campuses

Credit: Fulton County Government

Credit: Fulton County Government

Tens of thousands of college students in Fulton County — often tight on time, money and modes of transportation — will have an opportunity to vote on their campuses ahead of the November election.

The Fulton County elections board on Thursday approved 36 early voting locations and times for college campus voting, following a call from students and a civil rights organization.

The ACLU of Georgia earlier this month asked Fulton to provide on-campus early voting opportunities to college students after hearing from concerned students and administrators. Higher education institutions hosted early voting sites during in Fulton’s 2018 and 2020 elections.

Alex Ames, a junior at Georgia Tech, is registered to vote at Ocee Elementary School because she’s originally from Johns Creek.

The 20-year-old explained to board members during public comment that she doesn’t have a car and so would need to use “a chunk of her paycheck” for the hourlong Uber each way just to vote. That’s why having on-campus voting, she said, would expand access to voters.

Those in opposition said the existing early voting locations are already empty most of the time.

“The goal is not to have long lines,” said Aaron Johnson, a Democratic board member.

Sandra Burkhardt, an outspoken critic of Fulton’s elections, told board members that she was against more polling places because the department’s budget has increase fivefold to at least $50 million. She said the board members had to secure the vote but also be stewards of taxpayer dollars.

“These people that are asking for them, are they willing to work?” Burkhardt said.

Mason Goodwin, a 19-year-old sophomore at Georgia State University, said he’d be happy to volunteer and work the polls at his campus. That way, he said: “You build a future generation of poll workers.”

Julian Fortuna, a 19-year-old Decatur native, is a sophomore at UGA but came to Fulton because he was concerned about his peers not having the ability to vote easily. He noted that college students also pay taxes.

“We’re not lazy, we just need the accessibility to let our voices be heard,” he said.

Ultimately, board members voted without opposition to approve not only the 36 early voting sites but also two days each of early voting at the following schools: Atlanta Metropolitan State College, GSU, Georgia Tech and Morehouse College. Fulton’s interim elections director Nadine Williams also said they are awaiting confirmation to host voting at GSU’s Alpharetta campus.

“Fulton County deserves praise for what it did today,” Vasu Abhiraman, senior policy counsel with the ACLU of Georgia. “Fulton officials listened and responded to the concerns of students and the community. Now, Fulton will continue a great precedent for on-campus voting, while providing the highest standard of early voting access for its citizens overall. We hope all counties in Georgia follow Fulton’s lead on early voting.”

Every vote is expected to matter considering the hot races this cycle. UGA football legend Herschel Walker is the Republican challenging incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock for his federal seat, and Democratic Gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams wants to oust Governor Brian Kemp.