Warnock urges city of Atlanta for more transparency around training center referendum

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

After mostly silence from Georgia’s top Democrats in the battle over Atlanta’s proposed public safety training center, U.S. Sen. Reverend Raphael Warnock wants city officials to be more transparent.

In a letter sent Friday, Warnock outlined a series of concerns over how the city has responded to the grassroots movement to put the proposed 85-acre facility on the ballot for voters to decide.

Those concerns include the city’s decision to use signature-matching as part of the petition verification process and the news from earlier this week that the city will not begin that process pending litigation.

“I am closely monitoring the litigation positions that the City has taken in light of our shared commitment to ensuring the ability of voters to make their voices heard in their government,” he wrote.

“I urge the City to err on the side of giving people the ability to express their views,” Warnock continued. “Including by establishing clear and transparent deadlines regarding timelines and requirements and by using any discretion available to the City under the law to accept and count all lawfully collected signatures.”

The mayor’s office didn’t immediately comment on the letter.

The letter lists several questions Warnock wants answered by the city, including the decision-making behind the signature verification process, how officials will reconcile questionable signers and how they plan to update training center opponents on changing procedures.

The senator asked for the city’s response by Sept. 25.

“I am concerned by the past application of signature match in Georgia that likely led to discrimination and potentially the disenfranchisement of eligible voters,” Warnock wrote. “I understand that several leading voting rights organizations in Georgia have raised concerns with you on this matter as well.”

Other prominent voting rights organizations have also released statements of concern around the city’s verification process. Fair Fight Action, a nonprofit started in 2018 by high-profile Democrat Stacey Abrams, released a scathing statement this week in which they accused Atlanta leaders of “following the same tired anti-voter playbook that has been wielded against voters of color for generations.”

However, during an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution early Friday morning, before Warnock’s letter was released, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said he and his legal team had been consulting with Abrams, Warnock and U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff on how best to verifying the tens of thousands of signatures.