Fulton County Launches Massive Early Voting Campaign
Georgia's most populous county has launched an expansive early voting effort, hoping to push hundreds of thousands of voters to cast their ballots through the mail and in person by the end of October.
At a press conference Thursday, officials also unveiled one of two mobile voting buses that will show up at multiple locations across the 70-mile-long county and can accommodate up to eight voters at once. The county also unveiled a new voting app that has information on early voting and drop boxes, plus a new advertising campaign designed to encourage residents to vote early.
Fulton elections director Rick Barron said the goal is to have a vast majority of the votes this fall cast before Election Day.
"Our target is to get 80% of the voters to use absentee-by-mail and early voting to make Election Day run smooth," he said.
After several high-profile problems in various Fulton polling places during the June 9 primary, the county has taken a number of steps to improve the voting experience for November, including training and retraining thousands of poll workers, placing technicians at every polling site and the new mobile voting buses that can help cut down on lines.
There will be 30 early voting sites, including the Georgia International Convention Center in College Park and the Benson Senior Center that will each have 50 voting machines, and State Farm Arena, which will have 300 machines during the 19-day early voting period that begins Oct. 12.
County manager Dick Anderson said the elections budget doubled to $34 million for 2020 to ensure things would run smoothly.
"Hopefully what you can see here is that we're well prepared," he said. "We've done detailed planning at a site level, and I think citizens should know that we took every lesson from June and generally have a triple redundancy against any failed points that we saw."
One obstacle in the primary was a shortage of trained poll workers, who typically skew older and more vulnerable to the coronavirus. More than 6,500 people applied to be poll workers since then, and about 3,000 will be working on Election Day.
Another problem area was a shortage of polling places that shuttered because of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to more voters assigned to fewer locations.
Fulton has added 91 new locations for Nov. 3, up more than 50% from the primary.
"We have 255 locations, that's up from 164 in June and 147 in August," Barron said. "At the beginning of the year our goal was 210-220, but through private partnership and hard work of my staff, we were able to get it up to 255."
That means some residents will now cast their Election Day ballots at the Fox Theatre, Ponce City Market or Dad's Garage and early vote at Georgia Tech's McCamish Pavilion or the High Museum of Art among other places. Officials say that should mean fewer problems or delays.
"You're going to see far fewer people assigned at each location, which will reduce the lines — and especially if we hit that 80% early voting goal," Barron said. "The goal was to get as many polling locations as we could have with fewer than 5,000 voters assigned."
All voters (not just in Fulton County!) should check their My Voter Page to see if their polling places are changed, check their voter registration and view the status of their absentee ballot if they requested one.
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