Photo Credit: Blake Aued
The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections unanimously approved this afternoon an additional day of early voting on Sunday, Oct. 26
Voters will be able to cast ballots from 1–5 p.m. that day at the Board of Elections office at 155 E. Washington St.
ACC is the latest county to approve Sunday voting, joining DeKalb, Fulton, Lowndes, Augusta-Richmond and Floyd. (Macon-Bibb County voted it down last month.)
All of those counties except Floyd are majority Democratic, and Sunday voting has become a partisan issue, with Democrats believing that turning out African American voters after church will boost gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter and senatorial candidate Michelle Nunn's chances. Republicans have vowed to put an end to the practice when the legislature convenes in January.
But in Athens, at least, support for Sunday voting cuts across all lines. About 20 people—including Democratic Party officials, at least one Republican, ACC Commissioner Kelly Girtz and Commissioner-elect Melissa Link, University of Georgia students, a representative from the NAACP and ordinary citizens—spoke in favor of it at today's Board of Elections meeting, where the bipartisan board unanimously approved it. Election Supervisor Gail Schrader said she received 50 emails in favor and only two phone calls in opposition, both on religious grounds.
Supporters argued that Sunday voting will make it easier for citizens to exercise their Constitutional right to vote, especially those who are homebound, don't have a car, work multiple jobs or otherwise have challenges getting to the polls at other times.
"It'll give many people an opportunity to participate in government, and that's the only time they get to do that," lawyer Terrell Benton said.
While some of her colleagues, including Gov. Nathan Deal, have called Sunday voting a partisan ploy, state Rep. Regina Quick (R-Athens) told board members she would support their decision because she believes in local control.
"Do what you need to do to make this fundamental right accessible to our citizens," Quick said.
Schrader estimated that Sunday voting will cost less than $1,000 and said she thinks her department can pay for it within its current budget.
Even if that wasn't the case, cost was no object for former mayoral candidate Tim Denson of the activist group Athens for Everyone.
"If it costs more, let's spend more," Denson said. "This is important. It needs to happen."
In addition to Sunday, Oct. 26, early voting will be held at the Board of Elections office on weekdays Oct. 13–31 from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. and on Saturday, Oct. 25 from 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Precinct polling places will be open from 7 a.m.–7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4.