MARIETTA — The Cobb County Board of Elections Tuesday approved plans to offer early in-person voting for the Dec. 6 runoff election, including on the weekend after Thanksgiving.
The runoff election will only have one race on the ballot, pitting incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock against Republican challenger Herschel Walker. Warnock held a slight lead over Walker after votes from the Nov. 8 general election were counted. But neither candidate gained more than 50% of the vote, sending the two into a runoff.
Early voting set
Cobb elections will offer early voting at a dozen locations Monday, Nov. 28 through Friday, Dec. 2, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The board approved early voting plans for those days 4-0-1, with board member Pat Gartland abstaining.
The weekday early voting locations will be the same 12 locations used for the Nov. 8 election, with one exception. Jim Miller Park, which was used as a 13th location during the last week of early voting for the Nov. 8 election, will not be used for the runoff.
The list of early voting locations is as follows:
♦ Cobb Elections Main Office, 995 Roswell Street, Marietta
♦ East Cobb Government Center, 4400 Lower Roswell Road, Marietta
♦ Tim Lee Senior Center, 3332 Sandy Plains Road, Marietta
♦ North Cobb Senior Center, 3900 S. Main Street, Acworth
♦ Smyrna Community Center, 200 Village Green Circle, Smyrna
♦ Collar Park Community Center, 2625 Joe Jerkins Boulevard, Austell
♦ South Cobb Regional Library, 805 Clay Road, Mableton
♦ South Cobb Recreation Center, 875 Riverside Parkway, Austell
♦ Ward Recreation Center, 4845 Dallas Highway, Powder Springs
♦ West Cobb Regional Library, 1750 Dennis Kemp Lane, Kennesaw
♦ Ben Robertson Community Center, 2753 Watts Drive, Kennesaw
♦ Ron Anderson Recreation Center, 3820 Macedonia Road, Powder Springs
The board also directed elections staff to offer voting on Sunday, Nov. 27, from noon to 5 p.m. at six locations — the Main Elections Office, East Cobb Government Center, Smyrna Community Center, Ward Recreation Center, South Cobb Regional Library and North Cobb Senior Center.
The vote to approve Sunday voting passed 4-1, with Gartland opposed.
Elections Director Janine Eveler said at the board’s Tuesday afternoon meeting that six early voting locations had agreed to offer Sunday voting. But she asked the board to narrow the list down to five locations, because she was worried about having enough staff.
“That is the Sunday after Thanksgiving holiday, a lot of my staff have already made plans for out-of-town holiday events, and we’re concerned about staffing six locations,” Eveler said.
The board, however, voted to offer voting at all six of the locations.
The board also voted to offer Saturday voting on Nov. 26 at the same locations during the same hours, if possible. It is not yet clear whether Georgians will be able to vote Saturday, due to a legal dispute.
Warnock and his Democratic allies have filed a lawsuit challenging the absence of Saturday early voting ahead of the runoff.
In the immediate aftermath of the Nov. 8 election, the secretary of state’s office indicated one day for early voting would likely be set for Saturday, Nov. 26.
But Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger subsequently announced there would be no early voting that day, citing a state law that prohibits early voting on any day that immediately follows a state holiday.
Thursday, Nov. 24, is Thanksgiving Day, and Friday, Nov. 25, is a state holiday originally set aside for the observance of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s birthday. While Lee’s name has been removed, the state holiday remains in effect.
In a motion to restore the early voting Saturday, Warnock’s campaign, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Party of Georgia argue the law cited by the secretary of state applies only to primary and general elections, not to runoffs.
Cobb elections board Chair Tori Silas, an appointee of the Cobb legislative delegation, said the county should offer Saturday voting, in the event that Raffensperger reverses course, or a judge sides with Warnock.
“I think we would be remiss if we did not at least attempt to have this conversation and provide for the possibility,” Silas said. “We have traditionally had Saturday voting.”
Steve Bruning, another delegation appointee, agreed, saying it would be helpful for students that are home for Thanksgiving. Cobb Democratic Party appointee Jessica Brooks also supported Saturday voting, saying it’s helpful for seniors who live in independent and assisted living facilities.
The trio were joined by Jennifer Mosbacher, the appointee of Cobb Commission Chair Lisa Cupid, in voting to authorize Saturday voting. Gartland, appointed by the Cobb Republican Party, voted against.
Eveler noted that she had not yet secured locations for Saturday voting, even if the legal situation changes. Silas responded that the elections office will be authorized, not directed, to offer Saturday voting.
“You’d be authorized to do it, but if we can’t secure them, we can’t secure them,” Silas said.
Gartland did not explain his opposition before voting, but told the Journal after the meeting that the elections office did not need to offer all the options that the board was seeking.
“We used to have one voting day, one,” Gartland said. “And we’ve already expanded enough. … Give people a break, give the poll people a break. That’s all I’m saying. I mean, next thing you know, we’re gonna be voting on whether to do it 365 days out of the year.”
The board also unanimously approved two temporary precinct changes for the runoff election.
In east Cobb, precinct Dodgen 01 is being moved from the Episcopal Church of St. Peter and St. Paul to Mt. Zion Methodist Church. The two churches are located across the street from each other on Johnson Ferry Road, near its intersection with Bishop Lake Road.
Staff recommended the board change the location because St. Peter and St. Paul informed the county it could not serve as a polling location for the runoff. The change is effective for the runoff only, after which the polling place will revert to the regular facility.
The other precinct change is in Marietta. For the runoff, precinct Marietta 6A will move from Redeemed Christian Church of God — Heaven’s Gate on Pickens Industrial Drive to GraceLife Church on Allgood Road, about 0.8 miles away.
The former church notified the county it could not serve as a polling place for the runoff due to a fire code violation. Gracelife is located outside the precinct boundaries, and the change is temporary — after the runoff, elections staff will look for a new, permanent polling place for Marietta 6A.