COBB COUNTY, Ga. - One of metro Atlanta’s counties is adding early voting locations after it came under fire for scaling back the number of polling places for the upcoming Senate runoffs.
Cobb County elections officials previously scaled back the sites for Georgia’s two Senate runoff races to just five locations: two in Marietta, and the others in Kennesaw, Austell, and Powder Springs. That’s less than half of Cobb’s November early voting options. The county originally had nine sites and added two more in the final weeks leading up to Nov. 3.
Elections officials said they initially expanded the number of sites for the November election to accommodate record-breaking voter turnout, but after an audit and recounts, the director of elections said they were forced to cut down on early voting locations because workers are burnt out from the long hours and state-mandated recounts.
“Between COVID, the workload, and the holidays, we have simply run out of people,” Elections Director Janine Eveler said. “Many workers told us they spent three weeks working 14- or 15-hour days and they will not do that again. We simply don’t have time to bring in and train up more workers to staff the number of locations we had for November.”
After criticism from voting rights groups and the NAACP, the county responded saying they would make adjustments to the early voting locations - including moving one location from the Ward Recreation Center to the Ron Anderson Community Center in Powder Springs.
The county will also add two more polling locations for the third week of early voting: one at the Arts Place-Mountain View in Marietta and the other at the Smyrna Community Center in Smyrna.
The county expects to quickly train new poll managers to take over the locations.
Cobb County, with more than 750,000, is the third-most populous county in Georgia. Long a Republican stronghold, it is trending Democratic, with Joe Biden carrying 56% of the vote in the county, and Democrats taking control of many local offices.
Counties are only required to hold early voting at their main elections office during normal business hours and on one Saturday. Additional sites and longer hours are optional.
Other metro counties such as Fulton, Gwinnett, and DeKalb have plans to maintain the early voting sites they had in November for the January runoff.
Early voting begins on Monday, Dec. 14 and runs through New Year’s Eve.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report