Fulton elections board OKs early presidential voting at The High, GICC

The Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections votes virtually on Sept. 14, 2020 to add more polling places ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Credit: Fulton County

Credit: Fulton County

The Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections on Monday approved 30 early voting sites for the November presidential election, including some notable venues.

The High Museum of Art and the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park join State Farm Arena as places where non-profit, elected and private-sector leaders have volunteered to open their massive facilities to Fulton voters after seeing the dysfunction of the June election.

“It’s part of our ongoing obligation as a city to provide access to our residents and the residents of Fulton County. We’re thrilled we’re able to be in the position to help make sure everyone’s vote is counted,” College Park Mayor Bianca Motley Broom said of the city-run convention center.

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Motley Broom saw first hand how rough the June election was. On the last day of early voting, she showed up at a library about midnight to find 75 voters still in line. She opened up city hall in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic so people could go to the bathroom, as the library’s was closed. She gave voters Nutri-Grain bars and bottled water out of her closet.

“We have to do better than that,” she said.

Now, the city is opening a 32,000-square-foot exhibition hall for voters, said GICC executive director Mercedes Miller. With 90,000-square-feet of hallway, voters can socially distance inside.

“Everything can’t be about making money, it’s about helping the community,” she said.

Kristie Swink Benson, director of communications for the High, said voters can fulfill their civic duties in the 1,900-square-foot lobby of the Anne Cox Chambers Wing, which is currently empty. She said High director Rand Suffolk reached out to the county with the idea a month ago.

These big spaces — the GICC will hold 50 machines — will hopefully make a difference compared to the June election, which started with five early voting locations.

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The problems in June came fast and for lots of reasons, but staff quickly added a few more locations. Many polling places and poll-workers dropped out at the last minute for fear of the coronavirus. The obstacles of an absentee-by-mail backlog and under-trained staff using new pieces of equipment were too great.

Some voters on June 9 spent six hours in lines, and others never got their mail-in ballots.

In June, there were 164 election day sites. Board members on Monday approved 251 polling places.

Government buildings, churches and schools can usually handle the influx of voters. But this time, places like Dad’s Garage Theatre have raised their hands to host voters because turnout is expected to be so high. Fulton was able to woo many locations by promising to pay for sanitizing after.

Early voting will run from Oct. 12 to Oct. 30 ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential general election.