Paulding’s election supervisor said today she looked “forward to working” with Democratic Party leaders “and the community in making the voting process accessible and available for all voters” after recent criticism about changes to polling locations.
Deidre Holden also said her office was “doing the best we can with what we have” and made the changes to accommodate the rapid growth in the county’s voters and safety concerns about Election Day traffic on school campuses.
The Republican-dominated county elections board voted on Sept. 23 to add 12 new voting locations; retain five locations; and remove six schools and Taylor Farm Park from the list of precincts used in 2018.
Holden said the additions and changes were needed after her office added 19,000 county residents, or almost 20 percent, to its list of registered voters in the first nine months of this year.
Taurus Madric-Morris, chairwoman of the Paulding County Democratic Party, told the Paulding County Board of Commissioners today, Oct. 8, that some familiar with using their former voting locations to cast their ballots may be unaware of the new precincts Nov. 5.
They also may not have the time or transportation to travel to the new location, she said.
“Paulding County is a culture by itself but there’s also a subculture within Paulding County,” she said, in an apparent reference to minority voters. “Some cultures may not understand the importance of not closing voting precincts and messing with the opportunity to vote.
“We do consider this as a form of voter suppression,” Madric-Morris said. “It does disenfranchise voters because when they show up, they can’t vote.”
Madric-Morris said she was “not saying this is intentional in any way” on county officials’ part.
“It may not be reality but perception becomes reality,” she said.
“I know planning and organizing is very difficult. That’s why community input is important when you’re making these decisions.”
Holden said she wanted to encourage all voters to verify their registration and their new polling location by calling the Election Office or visiting www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.
“Voters should always be vigilant in keeping their voter registration information up to date,” she said. “They should also know their polling locations.
“Some think their polling location is where they voted early which, in fact, is most of the time not (the case).
“Voters should always contact the Election Office should they have any questions or concerns about anything election related,” Holden said.
She said the voting location changes “were not made to confuse anyone.”
“These changes were made to find voting locations that are suitable for the voters, for safety reasons and to prevent long lines on Election Day,” Holden said.
“By changing these in 2019 the voters will have enough notification of the changes to be prepared for the 2020 election year.
“We had to add precincts due to the growth we are experiencing. Doing all of the changes at once was a better solution than to do some now and some later.”
Madric-Morris told commissioners today, Oct. 8, the process of removing Taylor Farm Park’s gym from the list of voting locations was “offensive” to her.
She said she was told county officials said the gym’s “pretty floors” could be damaged by voters.
“To have us not vote because of your pretty floors — that’s like saying we have new TVs and new carpeting (and) then we’re going to hold our meetings outside,” she said.
County Parks and Recreation Department Director Michael Justus declined to comment on Madric-Morris’ remarks.
Holden said heavy foot traffic and the sliding of chairs used by poll workers at check-in tables damaged the gym floor during the 2018 election and an alternative space at the park was unavailable.
She said she was honoring a request from Justus to use a space at the park other than the gym.
“I want to be respectful of all locations that we use for elections,” Holden said. “If the entity is good enough to allow us to use their facilities, then we should take care of those facilities.”
She said Justus offered a meeting room in the building as an alternative but it “would not accommodate the number of voters that are in that polling location.”
The room could only hold 18 voting machines and would require 45 machines to comply with a state law approved earlier this year that required one machine for every 250 voters assigned to the precinct, she said.
“We have seen that when you do not have enough voting machines, voters have to stand in line for an extended amount of time outside in the weather,” she said.
She added the gym is not equipped with air conditioning or central heat.
The state law approved earlier this year to allow use of Georgia’s new Dominion Voting System ballot-marking machines stated, “The governing authority of each county and municipality shall provide and the superintendent shall cause all rooms used as polling places to be provided with suitable heat and light…”
The early voting period for the Nov. 5 election is set to begin Monday, Oct. 14, for voters countywide in an ESPLOST renewal referendum and for city voters in Dallas and Hiram for mayor and city council elections.
The elections board added Burnt Hickory Park on Cartersville Highway in north Paulding and the Dianne Wright Innovation Center on Bethel Church Road in south Paulding to the list of early voting locations.
Only one early voting site, the Watson Government Building, was offered in 2018 and it also will be used for early voting this year as well.