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ACC Will Expand Early Voting Hours and Locations Starting Monday

Credit: Blake Aued

The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections voted to expand advance voting hours at three locations in a Wednesday special called meeting. 

The board unanimously approved expanding hours at the ACC Elections Office from 7 a.m.–7 p.m. from Oct. 31–Nov. 3. The board also voted 3–2 to adjust hours at the Miriam Moore Community Center and the Lyndon House Arts Center to 9 a.m.–7 p.m. on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. The adjusted hours will add nine more hours for voting at the elections office downtown, as well as four hours each for the other two locations. 

In addition to those three locations, early voting will start Monday at the Winterville Train Depot, the ACC Tennis Center, the ACC Extension Office and the ACC Library. Hours are 9 a.m.–5 p.m. except for Wednesday, when those locations will open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Early voting ends next Friday.

The Board of Elections has been under pressure to expand early voting hours because Athens-Clarke County lags behind the record turnout elsewhere in the state. As of Thursday, ACC was fourth from last among Georgia counties, with a voter turnout rate of 9.7%.

Members of the public who commented agreed that expanding advance voting hours the week of Oct. 31 would provide more opportunity for Athens residents to cast their vote, with many noting that voters cannot always make it to the polls due to typical work days. 

“One of the most eye-opening days of my life was in 2020 during the presidential election when I’d seen Georgia turn into a blue state,” said University of Georgia law student Mark Lee. “But that’s the importance of our democracy. That is why it is important for everyone to get out and vote and make sure their voice is heard.”

Bryant Barnes, co-chair of the United Campus Workers of Georgia, said he also supports expanding voting hours.

“Voting rights are under attack, but workers’ rights are also under attack,” Barnes said. “Expanding those hours after 5 when most folks get off of work would just make our democracy more effective.” 

But Director of Elections and Voter Registration Charlotte Sosebee said that adding advance voting hours could actually lead to longer lines because poll workers will be stretched thin. When elections staff are not assisting with advance voting, they are answering phone calls, helping when there are long lines, giving poll workers breaks and processing absentee ballot applications. “Anytime that we add to our work, we take away from other work that has to be done,” Sosebee said. 

Elections Assistant Lisa McGlaun said having nine poll workers at a voting location is optimal because with only six workers, there is no time for breaks without leaving a station unattended. McGlaun said many of the office’s poll workers find 10-hour work days taxing and have expressed concerns about their accuracy. 

Sosebee said out of the elections office’s 95 workers, 64 responded that they would have availability to stay at their respective polling locations after 7 p.m. on some days, but not every day.