“Wait here to vote,” is shown as a voter walks toward voting booths. Fulton County is planning to open more early voting locations for a September special election. (JASON GETZ/SPECIAL TO THE AJC) AJC FILE PHOTO
Photo: Jason Getz
Photo: Jason Getz

Fulton to open more early voting sites after voter suppression charge

Following accusations of voter suppression and disenfranchisement, Fulton County’s elections board voted Friday to open two more early voting locations for a special election.

The C.T. Martin Natatorium & Recreation Center, 3201 M. L. King Jr. Dr, SW, in Atlanta and the East Point Library Branch, 2757 Main St.

All early voting locations will be opened beginning Monday at 8:30 a.m.

>> See complete list of Fulton County special election sites

The county already planned to open three locations ahead of the Sept. 17 special election to fill the District 6 county commission seat and the Atlanta Board of Education District 2 seat. But election board members agreed to add the additional locations after public outcry.

Earlier this month, residents learned the county did not plan to open the natatorium for early voting, thought it had been used in previous elections.

“Voter suppression may not be the intent, but that’s what’s going to happen,” Chris Brown, a school board candidate, told board members before the Friday vote.

Khadijah Abdur-Rahman, a county commission candidate, said at the meeting that she thought the decision to not open early voting at the natatorium was a mistake, but one that she hoped the county would rectify.

The county did exactly that late Friday afternoon, when it announced the two new locations.

More than a dozen people voiced concern about early voting locations, between the elections board meeting and a county commission meeting earlier in the week.

Richard Barron, Fulton’s director of registration and elections, said the county chose its other early voting locations — the Fairburn Library, the Fulton County Government Center and the South Fulton Service Center — to be close to the bulk of the voting population.

The natatorium is not in either of the districts where people are eligible to vote in September, but it is close to District 6, and some of those residents normally vote there on election day.

Originally, the natatorium was not available as an early voting location, said April Majors, a county spokesperson. That has since changed.

Barron defended the county’s early voting efforts, saying there was no intent to suppress voter turnout. But he said with turnout expected to be below 10 percent, he was trying to be judicious about spending county money, when absentee voting by mail is another option for voters.

With five early voting locations, Barron said, the cost for the election will be about $170,000 more than the department has available. He said there is no money available for a runoff; there are nine candidates in each of the two races.

“Don’t let the cost be a deterring factor,” Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts said.

The District 6 county commission representative will represent part or all of College Park, Union City, Fairburn, Palmetto, Chattahoochee Hills, South Fulton, East Point, Atlanta and unincorporated Fulton County. The District 2 school board representative will represent central Atlanta.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.