Gwinnett County residents cast their votes in 2016’s presidential election at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Lawrenceville. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Gwinnett elections chair joins critics of bill limiting early voting

Update, March 30, 2018: This bill did not make it out of the legislature and is dead. To see what else passed and failed, click here to visit PoliticallyGeorgia.com.

Original story, published March 28, 2018: The chairman of Gwinnett County’s elections board has joined those opposed to a piece of legislation that would place new limits on the amount of weekend voting his county — and every other one in Georgia — could offer ahead of elections.

Stephen Day recently sent a letter to members of Gwinnett’s legislative delegation, asking them to help strip Senate Bill 363 of a section that would limit counties to providing only one Saturday or one Sunday of advance voting. Day joins a host of Democrats, civil rights groups and voter advocates who have come out against the proposed legislation, which also calls for closing city of Atlanta polls an hour earlier to correspond with the rest of the state.

Podcast: Bills to watch as Georgia’s legislative session ends

The bill cleared the Senate but has not yet been voted on in the House. Thursday is the final day of the legislative session, and anything that isn’t adopted by midnight will die.

Gwinnett, Georgia’s second most populous county, offered two full Saturdays of advance voting during the 2016 presidential election and still made headlines with often hours-long waits. It was also opened some satellite advance voting locations earlier than planned. All told, more than 166,000 Gwinnett residents — about 45 percent of those that voted in the election overall — cast their votes early in 2016.

The county has planned to again offer two Saturdays of early voting this November, while also adding a half-day of Sunday voting.

Whether that will be possible depends not just on the fate of SB 363, but also Gwinnett’s ability to recruit enough Spanish-speaking poll workers to comply with a new federal mandate.

Advocates of the bill have said bigger counties that have more money shouldn’t be able to offer more voting options than smaller counties with less money.

Like the American Civil Liberties Union and Rev. Raphael Warnock of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church did earlier this week, Gwinnett’s election board chairman argued that the bill would only serve to limit the opportunities for voters to make it to the polls. In his letter to legislators, Day wrote that as much advance voting as possible is needed to help limit wait times, too.

“Gwinnett County will have over 500,000 registered voters by the 2018 fall general election,” Day wrote. “Senate Bill 363 ignores the great population differences among Georgia counties and usurps the local control needed to manage and optimize voting processes, especially in large population counties such as Gwinnett County.”

In other news:

Wednesday will be the third day of memorials for the former governor and U.S. Senator.

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