Advocates Say Changes In Georgia Runoff Early Voting Is Suppressing Turnout

The state’s handling of the highly-watched senate runoff in Georgia is drawing criticism from several voting rights advocates. 

Even before early voting started in Georgia, several counties announced they’d be closing the number of polling locations, which disproportionately impacted Black and Latino voters, according to advocates. 

With early voting underway, the groups are seeing their fears play out. 

According to a report by NBC News, over a dozen voter advocacy groups made appeals to election officials in Cobb and Hall counties this week. 

The New Georgia Project, however, filed a lawsuit in four other counties over the harm they say is negatively impacting Black and Latino voter turnout. The nonpartisan organization, assisted by Marc Elias, a top voting rights attorney for Democrats, filed lawsuits in Clarke, Houston, Paulding, and Bibb County. 

The suit claims the location cuts violated laws that mandate access to early voting. 

Since the filing, officials in Clarke County announced they’re adding early voting on Saturday, December 19.  

“During the first couple of days of early voting, the data has shown that the harm to voters remains severe, Cobb County has had extremely long lines –– in some cases as long as two hours. At the same time, the overall turnout in Cobb has gone down,” Michael Pernick, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund told the news outlet Thursday (December 17). 

Pernick also stated that counties who didn’t make cuts in the number of early polling locations actually saw an increase in voter turnout compared to the early voting period of the November election. 

Fulton, Gwinnett, and DeKalb counties saw turnout by early voters increase by 25%, 40%, and 12%, respectively. 

Election officials in counties that cut the number of locations, sometimes by half, said the cuts were made due to the reduction of poll workers, who they say are exhausted from the general election, and subsequent three recounts the state ordered

The work of the New Georgia Project and other voting rights advocates has not stopped. The organization is offering free rides to polling sites. Stacey Abrams and the Fair Fight Action have continued to promote early voting in the state, raising awareness about the election. Abrams announced that over 1 million Georgia voters had cast their ballots in the runoff election so far, but that the work is not over.

Photo: Getty Images

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