Early voting changes in Georgia counties are suppressing voting, advocates warn

Before voting began in Georgia’s Senate runoff this week, advocates for civil and voting rights advocates warned that changes and cuts in polling places in some counties, particularly Black and Latino voters, were harmed Can.

Now, over several days, those advocates say those apprehensions are being felt.

More than a dozen groups publicly appealed to election officials in the Cobb and Hall counties this week, while The New Georgia Project, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to voter registration efforts and promoting civic engagement, has four Took legal action on early voting issues in the counties.

“During the first few days of early voting, data has shown that the damage to voters is severe, with Cobb County having very long lines – in some cases up to two hours. At the same time, overall voting in Cobb has declined, ”Michael Pernick, an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), said in an interview on Thursday. He said some counties without major reductions for early voting, including Fulton County, had seen early voting accelerate in the general election compared to the same period.

In a letter to Cobb County officials, several civil rights groups joined the LDF and Georgia’s ACLU, saying cuts in early polling places were leading to two-hour lines and disappointing turnout.

Cobb County, the decider for the presidential election, which is Biden’s statewide victory, announced earlier this month that it would serve less than half of the initial polling spots from January 5 onwards, compared to the November general election. It is the third most populous county in the state with 760,000 residents.

Recently the tenth-most populous Hall County, with more than 200,000 residents, announced this month that it would have four early voting spots, down from eight that operated for the general election.

Following opposition from advocates, Cobb County announced plans to move one site and add two more sites for the final week of the state’s three-week early voting period.

Staffing issues limited the county’s ability to open more early voting spots, the county said at the time. Officials rejected advocates’ argument that fewer places would suppress votes, as historically voting for runoff races is lower than in presidential elections.

In an email to NBC News, Cobb County Communications Director Ross Caveat said the waiting time at the county’s five early polling sites was “less than an hour” and he added additional check-in stations on each side to speed up the voting process. Added to. .

“We were happy to see the waiting time well for the November general election with our five advance voting facilities,” said Cavitt.

In a letter to Hall County officials, groups including Latino Justice, the Hispanic Federation and the LDF alleged that the cuts were hopelessly disappointing and would disproportionately press Black and Latino voters in Hall County.

“Reducing the number of advance polling places for runoff elections when turnout is expected to be high and COVID-19 is raging is already providing Hall County’s smooth election operations and voters’ ability to vote safely Has a deleterious detrimental effect on capacity. And safely, ”the groups said in a letter sent Wednesday night, similar voting trends to Cobb County.

Hall County defended its early voting plans in an email.

Typically, Hall County Public Information Officer Katie Crumley said, there’s just one venue for the three-week early voting. For one day of Saturday voting during that period, the county opens three additional locations.

Crumley said Hall expanded eight locations for the high-interest general election in November, but enough to accommodate voters in four by-elections. He said it is difficult to vote during the epidemic in the holiday season.

Both letters sent to Cobb and Hall County officials alleged a drop in the number of voters who voted in the initial two days of runoff compared to the November election.

Advocates said data posted by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office showed that early votes in Cobb County were down about 5 percent in the first two days of the initial vote. The Fulton, Gwinnett, and DeKalb counties did not make “significant cuts” to early voting, he said, and saw early turnout by 25 percent, 40 percent and 12 percent, respectively, in the first two days.

On Tuesday, the New Georgia Project, aided by Democrats’ top voting rights attorney Mark Elias, Four cases were filed against four other counties: Clark, Houston, Paulding and Bibb County. The group alleged that those counties were illegally cut down to mandatory voting access by law.

Clark County officials have announced they will add early voting on Saturday December 19.

Cobb and Hall were two of the four large Georgia counties to reduce the number of early voting spots. Cobb, which includes the suburbs of Atlanta, is an important area for Democrats with party control of the Senate on the line. According to county election results, Biden defeated President Donald Trump by 14 points in Cobb.

Two of the state’s Democratic Senate optimists, John Osoff and Rafael Warnock, head of Republican Pictures. David Perdue and Kyle Loeffler in the county with 10 points and 12 points respectively in November.

Trump won Hall County Trump won Hall with 43 percentage points, with Senate Republican candidates also dominating the Senate race.

The 5 January race is high. If both Democratic candidates are victorious, the Democrats will serve the Chamber as a tie-breaking vote with Vice-President Kamala Harris. But if the Republican wins, the Senate remains in the hands of the GOP, a result consistent with the results of Biden’s first term.

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