Fulton County has added two more early voting locations for November’s municipal elections, after Roswell’s mayor and advocacy organizations pushed back against plans that would limit access to early voting.
“We got exactly what we wanted for early voting sites,” Roswell Mayor Lori Henry said. “I’m happy.”
The county had originally planned to have 16 early voting locations, but reduced that number to nine after Henry and others complained about the high cost of elections. Henry said it was “criminal” that Fulton planned to reduce access, even as she asked for the cost to be lowered.
Richard Barron, Fulton’s director of registration and elections, said the county will consider new ways to fund elections in the future. This year, the cost was higher for other cities because Atlanta and Sandy Springs did not have city elections this year, and their contributions generally offset the cost for smaller municipalities.
Roswell elections were slated to cost nearly $535,000, more than $200,000 more than the cost had been in 2017. With the cuts, the city’s elections will now cost about $375,000, a figure that is still more than $60,000 higher that Roswell budgeted.
Barron said he had added back a second early voting location in Roswell, at the East Roswell library, and added one at the College Park historical society. An Atlanta early voting site, at the Fulton County Government Center, was eliminated.
Additionally, the hours of early voting — which were going to be limited to 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday — have been expanded. Now, they will be 8:30 to 5 p.m. for the first weeks of early voting, including one Saturday, and 8:30 to 6 p.m. for the last week of early voting.
The cost to cities has not changed; Barron said he will pay for the expansion out of administrative fees that would normally go to IT and other departments that support the elections.
The expansion came after advocacy groups complained about the county’s plan, though Barron noted the 10 early voting sites are double the number that were available during 2015’s municipal elections.
Lauren Groh-Wargo, the CEO of Fair Fight, said the state needs more early voting locations, not fewer. To cut back disenfranchises Georgia voters, she said. Andrea Young, the executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement that all citizens should have the same, fair opportunity to cast their ballots.
“Elections are the wrong place to cut budgets,” she said. “Democracy does not come at a discount.”