DeKalb Elections Board voices opposition to voting bills; Clarkston early voting hours adjusted

Carol Calvert (l) and Lisa Cottrell handle the voter registration table during a ‘Get out the Vote’ rally hosted by the Avondale Alliance for Racial Justice at the ArtLot in Avondale Estates on September 19, 2020. Photo by Dean Hesse.

DeKalb County, GA — While Georgia Republicans spent the week trying to rush through bills imposing voter restrictions, DeKalb County Elections board members weren’t having it. Board member Dele Lowman Smith called the hurry to legislate “a slap in the face.”

Elections board chair Sam Tillman, along with Lowman Smith, plan to send on behalf of the board a strongly-worded statement opposing legislation to change absentee voting ID requirements, limit drop boxes and ban voting on Sundays.

Lowman Smith said the board can speak to the ways in which stricter regulations would have affected voting in DeKalb County’s previous election cycle, as well as how it could affect voting going forward.

“I hope the people who were elected to represent all of the voters of this state will listen to those of us who administer the voting process at the county level, and those of us who chose to participate in the voting process, as well as our ancestors who shed blood for this right – some of whom are in my own lineage,” said Lowman Smith.

Tillman said “many, many voter suppression bills” are moving quickly through the legislative process at the Georgia State capitol. He urged voters to contact the House Special Committee on Election Integrity to oppose the bill.

“The committee process that we use in the state of Georgia usually takes weeks, or sometimes a second year before the bill will get out of committee. There are committee meetings being held at 7 a.m., that are not being televised or on Zoom. There are pre-committee meetings being held prior to that time,” said Tillman, referring to dubious meetings at the Georgia capital.

He suggested voters get informed about election suppression “deals” that are being introduced daily.

“And there are two or three that are introduced every day. So be aware of those and contact the chairman and members who serve on those committees,” Tillman said.

The board then held a closed-door executive session to discuss litigation. Upon returning to the meeting, they unanimously adopted a new ruling from the Secretary of State on bringing challenges against DeKalb Elections with respect to notice, timing and residency status.

“We are following a guidance issued by the Secretary of State with respect to interplay between state and federal law …” said assistant county attorney Irene Vander Els.

Board members voted unanimously to approve the changes to the advance voting hours and locations for two upcoming elections.

For the Georgia House Dist. 90 runoff election on March 9: Advanced voting at DeKalb County Voter Registration and Election office and Wesley Chapel-William C. Brown Library runs March 1-5 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Drop boxes are located at DeKalb County Voter Registration and Election office. On Election Day, March 9, voters must cast their ballots at their assigned precinct. Polls are open 7 a.m.- 7 p.m. on Election Day. All absentee ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

For Clarkston’s special election to fill the seat of Yterenickia “YT” Bell on March 16: Advanced voting at DeKalb County Voter Registration and Election office runs Monday to Friday, Feb. 22-March 12, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Drop boxes are not available for this election. On Election Day, March 16, voters must cast their ballots at their assigned precinct. Polls are open 7 a.m.- 7 p.m. on Election Day. All absentee ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Hillary Hall, senior advisor at National Vote at Home Institute, presented a brief executive summary of the election cycle, recommending DeKalb County Elections hire a COO/Deputy Director, a Community Outreach Coordinator and a PMP Certified Project Manager who is “trained on managing complex projects.” Her full report will be posted on www.DeKalbVotes.com.

“Any detail or any part of the election process that isn’t 100 percent accurate can impact a close election, much more than a large election,” she said, adding there should be no doubt that votes in Georgia counted after an historic turnout for November’s presidential election.

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