A report by The Washington Post indicates that Cobb County, Georgia will see a reduction in early voting locations from 11 to five ahead of the contentious Senate runoff on January 5.
Cobb is the third largest county in the state, home to over 750,000 residents. Census data indicates that the county is 62% white, and has traditionally voted for conservative candidates in elections.
Starting in the 2016 presidential election, however, Cobb’s changing demographic shifted the county blue for Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Cobb voted for then-gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams, and most recently Joe Biden.
Georgia will hold a Senate runoff election between Republican senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. They are running against Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively.
The runoff election scheduled for January 5, 2021, will determine whether Democrats or Republicans have Senate control, and has been the subject of national attention since Election Day.
The decision to reduce the number of early voting locations ahead of the December 14 start of the early voting period drew backlash from voting rights groups who are citing the state’s history with voter suppression as reason to be concerned.
Leaders from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., All Voting is Local Georgia, Georgia NAACP, the SPLC Action Fund, Black Voters Matter Fund, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia wrote to county election officials citing that many of the early voting location closures would be in predominantly Black and Latino communities.
County officials say, however, staffing issues are to blame. Those who are trained to be poll workers are unwilling to work as many hours they did in November.
“We lost several of our advance voting managers and assistant managers due to the holidays, the workload, and the pandemic,” Janine Eveler, the elections director of Cobb County wrote in a letter in response to the voting rights groups.
“The remaining team members who agreed to work would do so only if the hours were less onerous…,” Eveler added, “We are at the end of the election cycle and many are tired or just unwilling to work so hard, especially during this time of year.”
Ballots from November’s election across the state had to be recounted three separate times, including a hand recount.
Michael Pernick of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund told the Post the groups are considering other avenues “to protect communities of color in Cobb County that would have significant difficulty accessing advance voting if that plan goes through.”
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