UPDATE: The Floyd County Elections Board approved weekend voting today for the Rome City Commission election on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 26-27, at the Rome Civic Center on Jackson Hill. The site will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
As of Monday afternoon 27 voters had cast their ballots at the Floyd County Health Department during the first day of early voting period for the Nov. 5 Rome City Commission election.
There may be more people than that show up to the Floyd County Board of Elections and Voter Registration meeting Tuesday at noon to advocate for weekend voting, Rome City Commissioner Wendy Davis said Monday.
“Our community is used to Saturday and Sunday voting. Taking that away is not the direction I think any of us would like to go in,” Davis said. “I am hopeful that at tomorrow’s Elections Board meeting the board will direct Chief (Clerk of Elections Robert) Brady to make that happen.”
Davis said the city has even reserved the Rome Civic Center for voting on Oct. 26 and 27 in the hopes the county will approve the addition of that weekend during the three-week early voting period.
“We’ve told Mr. Brady the Civic Center is available and that that’s what we want,” Davis said. “Our understanding is that there’s no reason our city elections should not have the same amount of early voting our city has previously had.”
Brady reiterated Monday while overseeing early voting at the Health Department that at this point weekend voting is not a possibility.
“The issue here at hand is not one of cost, it is not one of lack of interest or concern about anything other than the election has already started and we can’t make any changes,” Brady said. “I’m not opposed to them attempting it, but there’s a reason laws are in place that don’t allow you to make changes in the system once the system has begun to operate.”
Brady has maintained the city did not ask for weekend voting until after he already had made the official call for the election at least 60 days before the election, as required by law.
City officials have said it was more of a case of miscommunication about how elections have been conducted in Floyd County over the past several years.
“There was a month’s worth of discussion and lots of things were bandied about, but nobody ever said anything to me about Saturday and Sunday voting,” Brady said Monday. “That issue came after it was too late to make the change and because it’s too late to make the change, we’re stuck with it the way it is.”
Rome City Clerk Joe Smith said recently City Attorney Andy Davis did not find any state statutes or case law that would prevent the city from adding weekend voting — even after the election had begun.
All registered Rome voters have the opportunity to vote on three candidates for both the Ward 1 and Ward 3 races out of five candidates in Ward 1 and four candidates in Ward 3. They also will decide if local establishments with at least 50% of sales as alcohol will be able to serve drinks as early as 11 a.m. on Sundays — instead of the current 12:30 p.m. pour time.
Currently polls are only open for early voting Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Nov. 1 at the Health Department. Regular precincts will be open Nov. 5 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Poll Manager Marsha Hudson said Monday she’s hoping early voting will become busier as the week goes on.
“To me voting means having rights we wouldn’t have otherwise from a long time ago,” said Hudson, who is black. “I think everybody should exercise that right. I was taught that from an early age. My mom was very active in voting drives back in the day. She had nine children and all of them voted as soon as they were able.”