Hoping to avoid a repeat of the maligned June 9 primary, the Cobb Board of Elections is considering several tweaks to its elections policies ahead of the Aug. 11 runoff and Nov. 3 general elections.
At a Tuesday meeting of state lawmakers representing Cobb County and the elections board, chairman Phil Daniell said he and his colleagues will ask the department to provide more in-person training for poll workers, video training regarding emergency ballots procedures and a more generous delivery schedule to ensure voting machines arrive at their precincts on time.
Daniell also said the board would consider adding more machines into its polling locations, which would allow more people to vote at once and lines to move more quickly, but at closer quarters. Fewer machines than what the county was allowed were used June 9 to maintain social distancing.
The Board of Elections oversees the county’s elections department and is responsible for ensuring that elections are free, impartial, fair, accurate, convenient and accessible.
Lawmakers were concerned, however, that the board was not being proactive enough should a surge in cases of COVID-19 coincide with such a closely watched election.
State Rep. Mary Frances Williams, D-Marietta, said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who oversees Georgia’s elections system, would not repeat his decision ahead of the June 9 primary to mail an absentee ballot application to every single eligible voter in Georgia.
Given the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus, Williams asked whether the Cobb Board of Elections would take it upon itself to mail ballot applications.
Daniell said his board would have to wait for the outcome of a Georgia Board of Elections meeting on Wednesday before making a decision regarding absentee ballot applications and other issues raised by the delegation.
“We’ve heard that you want to plan for the worst, but there’s a lot of passive talk. Planning for the worst is not waiting on the secretary of state to see what he’s gonna do about mail in (absentee ballot) applications,” said state Rep. Erick Allen, D-Smyrna. “It’s creating a plan as if you’re gonna have to send mail-in applications. Preparing for the worst is not waiting to see what we’re going to do about early voting locations. … This is a situation where we could all agree it’s best to be prepared and somewhat underutilized than to have the situation like we had for the primary.”
Bill Tanks, the county’s director of public services, said elections department head Janine Eveler is looking into placing additional absentee ballot drop boxes at county fire stations.
Other members of the county’s legislative delegation who spoke during the meeting were state Reps. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta and David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs.
At the beginning of the meeting, Tanks and members of the board reiterated the issues faced by the Cobb Elections and Voter Registration department: coronavirus; new, complex voting machines; and a lack of adequate training for the poll workers whom the virus hadn’t scared off.
Elections board member Jessica Brooks said the county probably did the best it could given the circumstances, but said that was beside the point.
“Voters are not looking for excuses from us or necessarily reasons,” she said.