Early voting hours added in Cobb election for Georgia House

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Election officials decided Tuesday to add early voting hours — including on a Sunday — in response to complaints about voting opportunities during a Cobb County special election for a Georgia House seat.

Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler said polls will stay open an extra hour in the evening when early voting begins Monday May 24 to fill the seat left vacant by state Rep. Bert Reeves, a Republican from Marietta who resigned to become Georgia Tech’s vice president for institute relations. Voting will also be available on a Saturday and Sunday, June 5 and June 6.

The revised early voting schedule calls for early voting from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the two weekend days.

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Fair Fight, a voting rights organization, had criticized Cobb for reducing early voting hours in comparison with last year’s presidential election and January’s U.S. Senate runoffs, when early voting was offered from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on most days.

State Rep. David Wilkerson, a Democrat from Powder Springs, said he’s satisfied with the additional early voting hours.

“Adding that time for Sunday voting is huge,” Wilkerson said. He called greater voting access “a definite plus” after Georgia’s new voting law limited the placement of absentee ballot drop boxes to inside early voting locations.

Voters needed options after they endured lines that lasted for hours during early voting last year, said Hillary Holley, Fair Fight’s organizing director.

“Elections officials are still refusing to give voters every opportunity to cast their ballot early in a county full of voters of color and working-class voters with irregular hours in a special election where every vote counts,” Holley said.

Holley said Cobb County has a history of limiting early voting. Before the Senate runoffs, Cobb reduced its early voting locations from 11 to five and later added two more locations.

Election officials have discretion over early voting hours, according to Georgia’s voting law.

The law sets the default early voting hours at 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and county election officials can choose to keep polls open longer, starting as early as 7 a.m. and ending as late as 7 p.m. Previously, state law required early voting times “during normal business hours” without defining those hours.

Eveler said the change in voting hours was unrelated to Georgia’s voting law. Instead, she said early voting times reflected a lower number of expected voters in a special election than in a high-turnout general election.

There are about 44,000 eligible voters in House District 34, compared with 568,000 countywide. Cobb provided similar early voting hours in previous special elections, she said.

Early voting will be available for three weeks before election day on June 15, when polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The candidates are Republican David Blinkhorn, Democrat Sam Hensley Jr., Libertarian Chris Neill, Republican Devan Seabaugh and Democrat Priscilla Smith. If no candidate wins a majority, a runoff will be held July 13.

Cobb County early voting

Early voting for a special election to represent state House District 34 in the Marietta and Kennesaw area starts Monday at the main elections office at 736 Whitlock Ave. in Marietta and at the North Cobb Regional Library at 3535 Old 41 Highway Northwest in Kennesaw.

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, from May 24 to June 11. No voting will be held on Memorial Day on May 31.

Saturday and Sunday voting is available on June 5 and June 6 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Voters can confirm whether they live in House District 34 by checking their registration information online at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.

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