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WABE: Early Voting Could Get Easier In 6th District Runoff

APR 24, 2017

DeKalb’s top elections official said there’s “no doubt” the county’s board of elections will call for an additional early voting location ahead of the closely watched special election in the 6th Congressional District set for June 20. 

Maxine Daniels, DeKalb’s director of voter registration and elections, said the county may set up more than two early voting locations, but the decision is ultimately up to the board of elections. The county is required by state law to open at least one location for early voting.

In the runoff, Democrat Jon Ossoff faces Republican Karen Handel to fill the seat held by Tom Price, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. The in-person early voting period begins on May 30.

DeKalb established two early-voting locations before the first round of voting in the special election on April 18. But one of those locations was not in the 6th District, and the other was open only during the week before the election, Daniels said.

“We have already started receiving emails and calls in anticipation of the runoff,” said Daniels. “You name it, we’ve had it requested.”

Daniels said there’s a cost for each additional early voting location opened, including hiring staff.

“We’ve already heard from the board of commissioners that since this election was not in our budget, that as we get to the end of the year if we need additional funds we will go before the board to get additional funds,” said Daniels.

Brookhaven’s Democratic mayor, John Ernst, said he has suggested the Briarwood Park recreation building as a potential early voting location.

Ernst said he’s “looking forward” to DeKalb having multiple early voting locations throughout the 6th District, like Fulton County, which geographically and population-wise takes up a larger part of the district. Fulton had four early voting locations for the April 18 election.

“Since the runoff is going to be after the school year where a lot of people will be traveling, having a place to go early on, and express their will, is great,” Ernst said.

Surface street traffic caused by the collapse of a section of I-85 increases the need for more early voting location, according to Ernst.

“Everyone’s kind of sticking close to home,” he said.

About 55,000 people voted early in the first round of the special election. That’s considered high for an off-year race.

The DeKalb portion of the 6th District leans to the left, and Democratic voters tend to take advantage of early voting more than Republicans.

But with the runoff set for June, around vacation time for schools, even GOP leaders are pushing early voting.

“Get it done, and out of the way,” said Cobb County Republican chair Jason Shepherd, “and hey if you early vote you’re probably going to be less likely to get those annoying phone calls.”

Shepherd said Republicans generally like to vote the day of an election. He said Cobb’s two early voting locations set up before the first round of the special election were sufficient for people who wanted to cast ballots early.