The lack of weekend voting during the three-week early voting period that starts Monday has at least one local civil rights advocate shaking his head and wagging his finger.
Although having early voting for the City Commission election at the Floyd County Health Department at 16 E. 12th St. — instead of at the County Administration Building — is being applauded for its easy access and parking, only having polls open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., until regular precinct voting begins Nov. 5 does not sit well with Larry G. Morrow Sr.
“Weekend voting was something that was good for the African American community. We had a good turnout during the last election when people could vote on Saturdays and Sundays,” Morrow said, adding he had spoken with local NAACP President Ouida Sams on Thursday and she agreed. “I think by not having Saturday and Sunday voting, to me it’s a move to suppress the black vote.”
Floyd County Chief Elections Clerk Robert Brady explained that since early voting is being held at the health department, this has required special arrangements by the health department to have staff present for the polling site on Columbus Day Monday, as well as for an additional three hours on Fridays since the building normally closes at 2 p.m.
“Because of the logistics involved, we can’t have weekend voting,” said Brady, who was hired out of the Sumter County Elections Office about a year ago. “The health department is making considerable concessions for us.”
Brady said the city did not ask the county for weekend voting and unless there’s a state or federal candidate on the ballot, Saturday voting is not required.
Morrow said he wasn’t sure if cost was the driving force behind the change, but he doesn’t believe it would cost the city that much more to allow for weekend voting.
“They can always move money around,” Morrow said. “It’s done all the time. I don’t think it cost that much the last time they had weekend voting.”
Rome City Clerk Joe Smith said Thursday he wasn’t sure how much more it would cost the city to open the polls on the weekend, but for the 2017 city election for the Ward 2 commissioners and the school board, the city paid $18,419 total to Floyd County.
According to Morrow, there was weekend voting that year. In 2015, a previous election official estimated each day costs between $500 to $600.
Smith said he hadn’t heard the words “voter suppression” being uttered before regarding this election, but he said the city would prefer having the polls open on at least one Saturday during Early Voting.
“If it’s permissible to have weekend voting, the city would like that even though it would drive up the cost,” Smith said. “It’s my understanding that if we have Saturday and Sunday voting, it would be on the 26th and 27th of this month. The added cost is just the cost of having representative government.”