Gwinnett advocates push for Sunday voting

At roughly $13,000, it’s among the smallest line items in Gwinnett County’s proposed 2018 budget, a tiny drop in a bucket that holds nearly $1.7 billion.

But approving the money necessary to add Sunday voting during next year’s general election — which will include a gubernatorial race and two local commission seats —has Gwinnett advocates riled up.

“Sunday voting is not something we should have to ask for,” resident Penny Poole said during a Monday night public hearing on Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash’s proposed budget. “It should be a normal process for people who want to make sure that as many people as possible have the right to exercise their vote.”

Poole was one of about 10 folks who spoke in favor of Sunday voting during the hearing. Only 13 people spoke in all.

Read more about Gwinnett’s proposed 2018 budget here.

Early Gwinnett voters often waited for hours to cast their ballots in last November’s presidential election, and the county elections office requested funding for more advance voting — including at least a half day of Sunday voting — in the business plan it presented to Nash in August

In a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Nash said the money for more advance voting, including Sunday voting, is already included in her proposed 2018 budget. But it’s likely to be placed in a reserve fund until the county knows how many poll workers it’s going to be able to recruit.

Also key in Gwinnett’s decision will be the requirements of a federal designation handed down last year by the U.S. Census Bureau. The designation comes with a mandate for the county to offer Spanish-language ballots, elections materials and other assistance to voters who need them.

The mandate means, among other things, that the county will have to staff a Spanish-speaking poll worker at each poll location whenever it’s open.

“I have a big concern about our ability to have enough poll workers to do what we're mandated to do,” Nash said.

Some officials in Georgia and elsewhere have previously pushed back against Sunday voting, arguing that it favors Democrats. In 2014, state Sen. Fran Millar, a Republican from Dunwoody who also represents part of Gwinnett, was involved in a public spat with other officials after taking issue with Sunday voting being held only in traditionally Democratic areas of DeKalb County.

At least eight Georgia counties opened their polls for Sunday voting during the Nov. 2016 election. Half of them — Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton and Henry — were in the metro Atlanta area and most were in traditional Democratic strongholds.

Many of the people who spoke in favor of Sunday voting at Monday night’s meeting were tied to the Gwinnett County Democratic Party. 

More from In deeply diverse Gwinnett, white residents confront minority status

Gwinnett is a deeply diverse community of more than 900,000 people and, politically, appears to be turning purple. It went for Hillary Clinton in 2016’s presidential election, the first time the county had chosen a Democratic candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Advocates that spoke Monday night, though, insisted that the issue wasn’t a partisan one. And Stephen Day, the chairman of Gwinnett’s Board of Registrations and Elections, said Sunday voting has been “the most requested action” at recent meetings of that body.

Day, who spoke during Monday night’s budget hearing, called adding more advance voting a “do or die” issue.

Nash said she wants that to happen, but reiterated that there are other things to consider.

“The worst thing we can do is to open more days, say we’re going to be open, and not be able to accommodate people properly,” she said. “So it’s just really, really critical that we have sufficient poll workers to ensure that we can do everything that needs to be done with each of those sites.”

The Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on Nash’s proposed 2018 budget during its Jan. 2 meeting. Public comment can be submitted online through Dec. 31.

This article was updated to add further context to statements made in 2014 by state Sen. Fran Millar.

In other Gwinnett news:

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Georgia DOT: Watch for icy patches this morning
Georgia DOT: Watch for icy patches this morning

6:52  a.m. update: Metro Atlanta interstate highways are in good shape, but secondary routes and neighborhood roads may still be icy and dangerous, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.  Spokeswoman Natalie Dale said GDOT crews spent the night dropping a mixture of salt and gravel on the region’s highways to break...
LIVE UPDATES: Snow and ice still on roads; wind chill threat remains
LIVE UPDATES: Snow and ice still on roads; wind chill threat remains

ROADS: Atlanta wakes up Thursday to icy roads, light traffic SCHOOLS: Schools closed again ATTRACTIONS: Museums, parks closed YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD: Atlanta | Clayton | Cobb | DeKalb | North Fulton | South Fulton | Gwinnett | Henry AIRPORT: Snow causes flight delays, cancellations at Hartsfield-Jackson...
Guns are legal in parks. So why did police ban them at Peach Drop?
Guns are legal in parks. So why did police ban them at Peach Drop?

Atlanta city officials had two concerns as they prepared for the first New Year’s Eve Peach Drop at Woodruff Park. First, it was going to be bone-chillingly cold. Second, the event was a soft target — an attractive venue for terrorists, foreign and domestic. As a result, officials told revelers to bundle up and abide by security restrictions...
Here’s what we know will be closed in Atlanta due to weather Thursday
Here’s what we know will be closed in Atlanta due to weather Thursday

The snow had stopped falling by the time most intown Atlanta residents awoke Wednesday, but enough of it was left behind to disrupt the city’s normal business practices.  Expect more of the same on Thursday. Atlanta government offices and municipal courts will remain closed due to bad road conditions that kept cops busy with nearly...
Thursday another snow day for DeKalb with no school and bad roads
Thursday another snow day for DeKalb with no school and bad roads

One snow day down. At least one more to go. DeKalb County is once again shutting down Thursday, as it did Wednesday when snow blanketed the roads in the morning.  With forecasters calling for the roads to ice-over overnight, DeKalb County Schools went ahead and called Thursday off. County offices, senior centers, libraries and recreation...
More Stories