Fulton changes 91 polling places ahead of November election

Voters at the machines on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020 at Magnolia Hall located at 1320 Monroe Drive NE in Atlanta. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
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Voters at the machines on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020 at Magnolia Hall located at 1320 Monroe Drive NE in Atlanta. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Tens of thousands of Fulton County voters will be casting ballots in November at polling places different from those they visited in June.

The county’s elections board has approved 91 polling place changes for the Nov. 3 presidential election. There will be 255 locations in total for November, compared to 164 in June.

“That’s going to effect a huge number of voters,” Fulton elections head Richard Barron told county commissioners last week.

Dozens of polling places for the June election dropped out at the last minute over fears of COVID-19. That was one of the many problems during the rocky June election cycle that had some voters waiting all day in lines, and many voters who never got their mail-in ballots.

The county is spending money to woo some polling places back on the condition that the county will pay to have the spaces sanitized. After a vote from the Fulton Board of Commissioners earlier this month, the total budget for the elections department this year is $34 million, which is much more than previous years.

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While some people will transition back to their old polling locations, there’s a whole new batch of spots that will host voters for the first time.

Instead of the standard church or library, some voters will perform their civic duty at Dad’s Garage Theatre — home to one of Atlanta’s best-known improv comedy companies. Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion, where Yelllow Jackets play basketball, will also host voters.

Of the county’s nearly 800,000 registered voters, Barron said they are expecting an 80% turnout — with a little more than half voting by mail.

County elections staff sought new polling locations to spread out the number of people assigned to each. They want to avoid situations like the 16,000 people assigned to Park Tavern, resulting in massive lines all day June 9. The goal is to have fewer than 5,000 people assigned to each location.

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Barron said last week that nearly 7,000 people applied to become poll workers. He plans to hire nearly 3,000 of them. Part of the embarrassment during the June cycle was under-trained workers — some hired days before — overseeing operation of brand new equipment provided by the state that had technical issues.

Now, some staff are shadowing the ongoing Sept. 29 elections, and the new locations have been checked to make sure electricity can handle the machines.

Barron said the county will mail letters to voters who have different polling places, which was an issue during the June election. But he said all voters should check their My Voter Page on a state website, https://www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do, to make sure they know where to vote.

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