Cobb County, Georgia, is taking up two more venues for the final week of early voting in the Senate’s running races after voting rights and civil rights defenders criticized the changes, which they said could harm black and Latin voters ’access to voting.
In a press release announcing the move on Wednesday, the county said it was “responding to concerns” about its original plan to reduce advance polling stations to five for the entire pre-voting period before January 5, from 11, which is the November general. before the elections.
County Cobb is the third most populous county in the state, with more than 760,000 inhabitants.
There will now be five venues in the first two weeks of the preliminary vote, and seven seats in the final week when the county brings back the Smyrna and Marietta venues. According to the announcement, staff will be immediately trained to operate these two sites.
The county is also relocating the planned early voting site at the Ward Recreation Center to the Ron Anderson Community Center. Both are in Powder Springs, but the new venue is in an area with a higher proportion of black voters, say groups protesting the cuts.
These groups, including the Georgian divisions of the NAACP and the American Civil Rights Association, wrote a letter to local officials on Monday urging them to maintain 11 early polls for the run.
“While these closures are likely to adversely affect Cobb County voters, we are particularly concerned that these closures will be detrimental to black and Latin voters in Cobb County because many venues are located in black and Latin communities,” they said on Monday.
Janine Eveler, director of Cobb County Elections, blamed staff issues for the cuts.
“Between COVID, the workload and the holidays, we simply ran out,” Eveler said in a statement Wednesday. “A lot of employees told us they spent three weeks working 14 or 15 hours and they won’t do that. We simply don’t have time to bring in and train more workers for the November locations. “
The county also defended itself by saying that voters spend less time in polling stations in one run, with only two races on the ballot, while in general elections, there were more quizzes to vote for voters.
“No, it’s not a form of voter repression, it’s a form of our staffing skills. I mean, what we know, we do with what we have, ”Ross Cavitt, Cobb County communications director, told NBC News.
“I’ve never had 11 open before. The November election was very unusual for us, we knew the vote was long, we knew there was intense interest in these elections, and because of Covid we knew a lot of people wanted to take advantage of absenteeism or early voting. benefits “, he continued. “So what you see in this process is pretty much as much as usual – five advance polling places around the count.
In Cobb County, which includes the suburbs of Atlanta, President-elect Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump by 14 points, according to county election results, and played a key role in his nationwide victory. The state’s two Democratic Senate hopes, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, are Republican Sens. Led by David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, he leads the county by 10 and 12 points, respectively.
The stakes in the January 5 tournaments are high. If both Democratic candidates win, the Democrats will control the Chamber, with Kamala Harris elected Vice-President in the tie vote. But if either Republican wins, the Senate will still be in the hands of the GOP, with implications for Biden’s first-term agenda.
Cobb was one of four major Georgian counties that reduced the number of early polls.
Forsyth County has been reduced from 11 to five polling stations. County Republicans celebrated the closures in a Facebook post on Tuesday, saying they attended a recent meeting of election officials to protect themselves from a democratic “scheme” to take up several hours or websites. In the entry, it was argued without evidence that further early voting opportunities would have created an opportunity for “further fraud”.
Trump won Forsyth County by 22 points, and Republican Senate candidates were also able to enjoy a double-digit difference.
Many state Republican lawmakers, including the Georgian GOP, reiterated Trump’s repeated, false allegations that voter fraud robbed a second cycle, even when election officials, outside experts, and Trump’s own lawyer, William Barr, said there was no widespread voter fraud.
On Tuesday, Georgian Republicans called for a toss-up of the voting system for absenteeism they created in 2005. Early voting was hugely popular in Georgia’s November elections, especially among Democrats, and Biden turned the state blue for the first time since 1992.
Republican Foreign Minister Brad Raffensperger also argued for further voting restrictions, but reiterated that there was no evidence of widespread fraud or stolen elections.
“I know there are people who are convinced that the election was problematic, but the evidence, the actual evidence, the facts tell us a different story,” he said Monday.
Shaquille Brewster and Julia Jester consented.