Dougherty Co. board votes against expanding early voting hours
ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - The Dougherty County Board of Elections has voted not to extend voting hours during this last week of early voting.
Board members say one of the main reasons they voted against extending early voting hours was that the request was not submitted early enough.
During the meeting, board members discussed as the public watched unable to address the board.
Members of the board say while early voting hours have always been the same, they are open to changing them in the future.
Bishop Frederick Williams Sr. is the chairman of the Board of Elections.
“Absolutely. I think the biggest thing that worked against us today is the time,” Williams Sr. said. “But certainly, we want to look at it past this election to make sure. We think it’s a great idea. But we just — the elements of two days left is a little too much.”
Board members say there were other reasons for their objections as well.
“The lack of poll workers. They’ve been working, they were not prepared for the extension,” Williams Sr. said. “Some of them had other things to do at five. And so, we just could not, in good conscience, get them to work those extended hours.”
But voters say Dougherty County needs to change and follow the example of other counties that have extended their early voting hours. As well as more early voting locations.
Demetrius Young is the Ward 6 city commissioner.
“I think that’s an indication of kind of the scare tactics that SB 202 does,” Young said. “You heard a lot of the board talk about the state coming in and taking over. And we feel like that’s what drove this vote. That scare tactic in terms of what the state was going to do. But we feel like that was an incorrect interpretation of the law.”
Young says he would like to emphasize the fact that employers are required to let their employees off for a period of time to go cast their vote.
Board members say there was no written request to extend the hours and that the call to action came too late to change anything.
Some board members say if people want to see changes, they should work with the board to make them happen.
“My feelings about voter suppression are that I would ask that this community work closer together; even with the board,” Williams Sr. said. “If there is a good idea or ideas that they would like to see done, our meetings are open every month. All they have to do is come and present it in writing.”
However, Young says the early voting hours and access to the board are limited.
“We’ve made requests before as voting rights advocates. Different groups in the community,” Young said. “But when they make their decisions as a board, sometimes we’re not here when they make those decisions. Those board meetings are during the day. Just like the voting times are during the day when people are not able to come. So, a lot of that has to do with access to the public.”
Young says if the board wants to fight claims of voter suppression, they should consider the needs of everyone.
“But we also understand that even with the board there are political differences in terms of what they feel is equitable and standard access to vote,” Young said. “We have very different methods of voting around the country. But we want to move towards a holistic approach that considers every individual, every situation.”
Young and others in the meeting say they would like to remind everyone that in Georgia, employers are required to allow an employee up to two hours to cast their ballot.
Although the request to extend early voting hours was denied, activists at the meeting say they would encourage people to get out to vote if they haven’t already.
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