HB 769 removed the former Elections Supervisor Marcia Ridley and an elections office employee with a residency requirement. HB 769 removed Vera McIntosh, elections board chair and the fifth member of the board, without cause. Glenda Henley and Margaret Bentley, Democratic members of the board, resigned in protest over the unjust ways their colleagues were treated. Only Mary Passamore, a part-time employee, remains from the prior elections office.
The above-mentioned women have one thing in common – they all are African American.
Interestingly enough, Senate Bill SB202 does permit Sunday voting at the discretion of the registrar, or in this case, the county elections board (see Section 28). This was not the case in the early drafts of SB 202.
The SB 202 preamble makes a very important statement that is often overlooked: “Requiring two Saturday voting days and two optional Sunday voting days will dramatically increase the total voting hours for voters across the state of Georgia, and all electors in Georgia will have access to multiple opportunities to vote in person on the weekend for the first time.” (Section 5).
In my opinion, Section 5 of the preamble speaks to intent. The legislators intend to increase voting access by ensuring Saturday and Sunday voting.
Souls to the Polls is a longstanding tradition for African American churchgoers. Pastors urge their constituents to get out and vote. In some instances, the pastors even provide transportation to the polls.
Early voting on Sundays has been allowed in Georgia for every federal and state election since 2014, although not every county has offered it. Some 37% of the Sunday voters in 2020 were Black voters.
More, since 2017, Spalding County has offered Sunday voting. Why would the Spalding County Board of Elections refuse to provide Sunday voting in the November midterm elections?
Failure to plan and fund Sunday voting will be unjust and lead to the suppression of votes in Spalding County. I hate to even ponder this possibility.
James A. O’Brien lives in Griffin and is a newly appointed Democratic member of the Spalding County Board of Elections. He volunteers at a hospice provider and is on the board of a food pantry.