Cobb County under fire for cutting early voting locations

One of metro Atlanta’s counties is under fire for scaling back the number of it its early voting sites for the upcoming Senate runoffs.

FOX 5 first reported on Thursday, Cobb County elections officials 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.

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On Monday, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and five other groups sent a letter to Cobb County officials saying the closures would disproportionately hurt Black and Latino voters because some locations were in neighborhoods where those voters live.

The groups said they would help recruit and train poll workers in response to Eveler’s concerns.

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.

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Cobb Director of Elections, Janine Eveler said the decrease in January early voting sites is a direct result of a lack of manpower. Eveler explained this isn’t a matter of hiring more people. The director of elections said workers would need to be trained, even if they’ve worked at a poll before and there’s not enough time to complete that training. Officials said the county is taking other measures to ensure the decrease in early voting locations plays no role in voter efficiency.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report