Cobb elections board to discuss early voting schedule

June 21, 2022 Atlanta: With a light morning voter turnout, C. Harper (left) turns in her ballot to poll worker, Michael Bacon (right) at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church at 435 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Runoff elections on Tuesday were needed to settle races from the May primary in which no candidate won more than 50% of the vote. The elections were open to registered voters, with a catch. Voters who participated in the primary must have voted in the same party during the primary runoff. Registered voters who skipped the primary can vote in either party’s runoff. Runoff races include a number of legislative and congressional seats, in addition to Democratic runoffs for secretary of state, lieutenant governor, insurance commissioner and labor commissioner. There were also local runoffs in Cherokee, Cobb, DeKalb, Fayette, Gwinnett and Henry counties. The general election is Nov. 8. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

June 21, 2022 Atlanta: With a light morning voter turnout, C. Harper (left) turns in her ballot to poll worker, Michael Bacon (right) at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church at 435 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta on Tuesday, June 21, 2022. Runoff elections on Tuesday were needed to settle races from the May primary in which no candidate won more than 50% of the vote. The elections were open to registered voters, with a catch. Voters who participated in the primary must have voted in the same party during the primary runoff. Registered voters who skipped the primary can vote in either party’s runoff. Runoff races include a number of legislative and congressional seats, in addition to Democratic runoffs for secretary of state, lieutenant governor, insurance commissioner and labor commissioner. There were also local runoffs in Cherokee, Cobb, DeKalb, Fayette, Gwinnett and Henry counties. The general election is Nov. 8. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

The Cobb Board of Elections on Monday will consider the county’s early voting plan for the November election.

The proposal includes opening 12 precincts for three weeks, including two Saturdays, and one additional precinct during the last week of early voting. The plan includes no early voting on Sundays.

Fair Fight Action, a nonprofit founded by Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, is advocating for Sunday early voting in Cobb County, and suggested in a tweet that residents let election board members know they want Sunday voting and additional locations.

Cobb has never offered early voting on Sundays.

Jacqueline Bettadapur, the chair of the Cobb County Democratic Committee, said while Sunday voting is important, the issue is not her current priority on the local level.

“I’m all for expanding early voting to the max possible,” she said. “We have made a lot of progress in this county with expanding early vote capacity just in the last two years.”

Cobb County voters saw lines as long as five hours at the start of early voting in the 2020 general election, and the county used to have only two early voting sites open for two weeks, Bettadapur said. Now, the county has 12 polling locations open for three weeks of early voting.

Janine Eveler, the Cobb County elections director, said Sunday voting is not necessary given the staffing squeeze the department is facing.

“Because people are hard to come by, it will be better used if we concentrate on the days that most people go to vote,” she said.

The election department’s regular staff is down 21%, and Eveler is actively working to hire seasonal employees for the upcoming election.

Bettadapur and Eveler both cited data from surrounding counties and indicated voter turnout on Sundays is significantly lower than Saturdays and weekdays. But The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported that over 71,000 voters cast ballots on Sundays in the 2020 presidential election, even though some counties don’t offer it.

Cobb Chairwoman Lisa Cupid said Sunday voting is worth exploring, but staffing constraints play a major role in the decision.

“The challenge of it from a resource perspective is, how do you have parity?” Cupid said. “She can’t just do Sunday voting at one site. She’s going to have to do it at every site.”

Proponents argue that not allowing Sunday voting curbs ballot access, particularly for Black voters. Some traditional Black churches participate in a long-standing “Souls to the Polls” tradition, providing buses for congregants to go vote together after church services.

Salleigh Grubbs, the Cobb County Republican Party chair, said Sunday voting is unnecessary because voters have other options, including absentee voting. She said it would place “an extreme burden on the Board of Elections when they’re already short-handed.”

Weekend voting was a highly debated issue during the 2021 legislative session when lawmakers passed Senate Bill 202, creating new rules for absentee ballots, adjusting the days for early voting and changing how elections are run.

The Cobb Board of Elections will meet Monday at 3 p.m.

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