Gwinnett elections board approves drop boxes, new early voting site

03/02/2020 -- Lawrenceville, Georgia -- Gwinnett County poll worker Judy Rhea (right) assist an early voter during early voting for the presidential primary at the Gwinnett Voter Registrations and Elections office building in Lawrenceville, Monday, March 2, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
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03/02/2020 -- Lawrenceville, Georgia -- Gwinnett County poll worker Judy Rhea (right) assist an early voter during early voting for the presidential primary at the Gwinnett Voter Registrations and Elections office building in Lawrenceville, Monday, March 2, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Gwinnett County has added a new early voting location for the June primary while considering the closure of three others.

The elections board approved Rhodes Jordan Park in Lawrenceville as an advance in-person polling place at its Tuesday teleconference meeting. The new location was added after concerns were raised about three polling places that are not conducive to social distancing: Dacula Park in Dacula, Mountain Park Activity Center near Stone Mountain and Shorty Howell Park near Tucker.



Those locations haven’t been officially removed from the list of early voting locations for the June 9 primary, but may be before early voting begins May 18. Elections director Kristi Royston has not made an official recommendation because she is waiting to see whether state and county stay-at-home orders will be extended past April 30. Early voting is scheduled to end June 5.

The elections board has been grappling with how to handle in-person early voting in the run-up to the primary, which was originally scheduled for May. The coronavirus pandemic has put a wrench in voting plans across the country as officials must figure out how to minimize crowd sizes and personal contact.

The Gwinnett elections office will be implementing social distancing measures for early and Election Day voting, including more space between poll workers and voters in polling places and lines. It could reduce the number of people and voting machines in each polling place, Royston said at a meeting earlier this month.

The board also approved nine ballot drop-off boxes across the county following Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's authorization of the practice last week. Drop boxes are another tool to avoid person-to-person contact that could spread coronavirus. Voters will be able to drop their absentee ballots at the county elections office and all early voting locations once early voting begins. Boxes will be available at Dacula Park, Mountain Park Activity Center and Shorty Howell Park even if in-person early voting won't be conducted there.

Final decisions about early voting plans in Gwinnett are expected to be made in May.

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