Elections Coordinator Shantell Black, left, and Elections Deputy Director Kristi Royston open and scan absentee ballots Wednesday morning at the Voter Registration and Elections Office in Lawrenceville. Gwinnett County Director of Voter Registration and Elections Lynn Ledford said the office began opening and scanning absentee ballots on Tuesday at 11am and completed scanning them on Wednesday afternoon.. Because Gwinnett has a two-page ballot when other counties had just one, coupled with unanticipated turnout, results from the county came out later. There are also 2,000 provisional ballots that are due to be researched and certified next Tuesday. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Gwinnett will have 3 solid weeks of early voting for MARTA referendum

Gwinnett will have three solid weeks of advance in-person voting — including a pair of weekends — for its historic MARTA referendum.

The Gwinnett County elections board approved Tuesday night the unusually extensive schedule for voting ahead of the March 19 special election. 

“I believe that turnout is going to be higher than in a typical special election,” county elections director Lynn Ledford told the board. “If we have the opportunity to provide these additional opportunities, than we should.”

IN-DEPTH: Pro-transit group ready for ‘dogfight’ with Gwinnett MARTA referendum

The first day of advance in-person voting will be Feb. 25. 

Every day between Feb. 25 and March 15, including Saturdays and Sundays, early voting will be available at the county elections office at 455 Grayson Highway in Lawrenceville. Voting hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.

During the final pair of weeks, advance voting will also be available at seven satellite locations. 

The satellite locations open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. between March 4 and 15 will be as follows:

• Bogan Park Community Recreation Center, 2723 North Bogan Road, Buford, GA 30518

• Dacula Park Activity Building , 2735 Old Auburn Road, Dacula, GA 30019

• George Pierce Park Community Recreation Center, 55 Buford Highway, Suwanee, GA 30024

• Lenora Park Activity Room, 4515 Lenora Church Road, Snellville, GA 30078

• Lucky Shoals Park Community Recreation Center, 4651 Britt Road, Norcross, GA 30093

• Mountain Park Activity Building, 1063 Rockbridge Road, Stone Mountain, GA 30087

• Shorty Howell Park Community Recreation Center , 2750 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth, GA 30096

The last day to register to vote in the referendum is Feb. 19.

> RELATED: How to find your voting precinct or check your registration status

The elections board’s approval of the schedule Tuesday night was not unanimous. Alice O’Lenick, a Republican appointee, questioned the thought process behind the county having more early voting for a single-issue referendum than there was for November’s general election.

“I think it would behoove our budget and the budget of the county, for a one-question ballot, to not have that many days of early voting in several different locations,” said O’Lenick, who ultimately abstained from the vote that her four fellow board members approved.

Ledford suggested the polarizing nature of the referendum would drive turnout and said the county’s residents have begun pushing for as much early voting as possible, in any election.

The county previously budgeted around $769,000 for the MARTA referendum.

If the referendum is approved by voters, Gwinnett’s pending contract with MARTA would be approved and the county would opt into a new 1 percent sales tax until 2057. The proceeds from that sales tax would be used to fund a dramatic expansion of Gwinnett’s transit services, including a heavy rail extension from Doraville to a new multi-modal hub in the Norcross area

The county’s $5.5 billion, 30-year transit plan would guide the expansion. Non-rail offerings would include greatly expanded local and express bus service, as well as several bus rapid transit lines. BRT lines are often described as “light rail on rubber tires” and generally operate in dedicated lines with far fewer stops than local bus service.

Read more about the referendum and the transit plan here.

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