Polling places reduced in Milton after city takes over elections

City Council restores one precinct following complaints
Voters wait in line at Milton Library in Milton on the last day of early voting on Friday, December 2, 2022. For this year's municipal elections, Milton is planning to reduce the number of polling locations from eight to three.  (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Voters wait in line at Milton Library in Milton on the last day of early voting on Friday, December 2, 2022. For this year's municipal elections, Milton is planning to reduce the number of polling locations from eight to three. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

The city of Milton is cutting its voting locations from eight to three, a reduction in access since the city took control of this year’s local elections from Fulton County.

The changes prompted a political action committee called Milton Families First to ask the State Election Board on Wednesday to intervene in what it called a “mismanaged” process.

City officials say they have responded to residents’ concerns by voting to add a third election day polling place in southeast Milton after initially planning just two. They say voters will continue to have adequate opportunities to cast ballots this November, with lower costs to taxpayers.

The dispute over voting locations follows Milton’s decision to run its own municipal elections this fall after a feasibility study conducted by one of Georgia’s fake presidential electors, the president of a Republican Party group and city officials.

Milton Families First questioned whether it was legal for the City Council to set polling places while its members are eligible for reelection. State law gives the election superintendent — in this case, the city manager — authority to set voting locations, according to the group.

“This process has been, at best, mismanaged — and, at worst, could be unethical and in violation of state statutes,” states the letter by Milton Families First, which is opposing the reelection of Councilmen Paul Moore and Rick Mohrig. “While our strong preference would be that Milton run its own elections, the City Council has lost the ability to avoid a real and perceived conflict of interest.”

State Election Board Chairman Bill Duffey said he will look into whether the board has authority over the matter.

Milton’s election consultant, Vernetta Nuriddin, said the city’s three election day precincts and one early voting site will be able to serve the city’s voters in this year’s municipal elections, when turnout is expected to be lower than in general elections. There are over 30,000 registered voters in Milton, and about 3,800 turned out for city elections two years ago.

Fulton County will continue to operate Milton elections when federal and state candidates are on the ballot, including next year’s presidential elections.

“We can handle it with the three locations, especially with three weeks of early voting,” said Nuriddin, a former vice chairwoman for the Fulton election board. “It’s going to be a light lift for the city if we can maximize the early vote.”

Several voting rights groups have urged the city to add voting locations.

“While we appreciate the limited resources the city has to manage elections, self-administering elections separate from Fulton County was a conscious decision made by the council, and as such, it is incumbent on you that your decision does not result in discriminatory and exclusionary access to the ballot,” states a May letter from Fair Fight Action, the New Georgia Project Action Fund, the Represent GA Network, Common Cause Georgia and All Voting is Local Action Georgia.

In at least three other Georgia counties, polling locations have recently been closed or moved.

Lincoln County reduced the number of voting sites from seven to three last month, and Floyd County last week decided on 19 election day precincts, down from 25. Troup County officials approved moving four voting locations currently housed in schools.

Statewide, county election boards closed 214 precincts between 2012 and 2018, which amounted to nearly 8% of Georgia’s polling places, according to a count by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.