Gwinnett could use county fairgrounds for elections due to coronavirus

Gwinnett County could close some early voting sites and add the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds as a new site in response to the coronavirus pandemic, elections director Kristi Royston said in a Monday meeting.

The county’s plan for in-person early voting is still in flux and no changes have been formalized. The Gwinnett County Board of Voter Registrations and Elections met Monday via videoconference to discuss the May primary, for which early voting begins April 27.

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The county expects to implement social distancing measures at its in-person early voting locations, which could cut down on the number of poll workers and machines in the room. Two poll workers typically sit at a six-foot table at the entrance of an early voting location, and two voting machines are typically put on another six-foot table, Royston said. That will likely be reduced in order to maintain a distance of six feet between people whenever possible.

Royston said she’s concerned three early voting locations — Dacula Park Activity Building, Mountain Park Activity Building and Shorty Howell Park Activity Building — are not conducive to allowing social distancing. That could lead to them not being used as polling places out of concerns for voter and poll worker safety, Royston said. The county is only required to operate one early voting location under state law, and typically operates eight: one at the main elections office and seven satellite locations across the county.

Royston will soon conduct a survey of the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, which has served as an Election Day polling place, to see if the site has the electrical capacity to conduct early voting in some of its large indoor facilities. Larger buildings would make social distancing easier and allow the normal amount of poll workers.

The board will meet again on April 21 to finalize early voting plans.