State may cut back city early voting

Under the gold dome in Atlanta Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved a measure to reduce the number of early voting days for municipal elections.

But the amended version of House Bill 891 gives city officials around the state the option of deciding whether to have one week of early voting before an election or keeping the early voting period at three weeks.

It now heads to the Georgia Senate for consideration.

The proposal surfaced after some city officials around the state complained it's inefficient and costly to staff polling places for three weeks, especially in rural areas where one or two people vote each day.

However, the NAACP and other agencies opposed the measure, maintaining it could infringe on some people's voting rights.

In Warner Robins, Elections Superintendent Kathy Cummings thinks early voting for municipal elections should be shortened.

"I think it's a great idea," Cummings said. "Some cities may have two or three people that come in and vote all day. But you still have to have (election officials) there for the whole day."

Cutting the early voting period by two weeks, Cummings said, would save time, energy and money spent to keep election workers at the polls. Cummings didn't know the exact amount of the possible savings.

"It will give us valuable time back that we need for the general elections and runoffs that take a lot of work to keep them going," Cummings said.

But Houston County NAACP President Larry Holmes echoed the state organization's position, saying saving money doesn't justify hampering voting rights.

"I believe if something's not broken then we shouldn't be trying to fix it," Holmes said. "It would be a disadvantage. It's gonna cause a lot of people heartache if they cut down on the days. The lines would be longer and everything like that. To me it's something we shouldn't be bothered with. There's nothing wrong with what we have now."

The proposal, which now gives city officials the right to chose a three week or one week early voting period, applies only to municipal elections, and that's only when the city elections don't coincide with county, state and federal elections.

Cities like Warner Robins, Dublin, Milledgeville, and Perry would be affected, but the new Macon-Bibb government would not.

With the Georgia House approving the measure Wednesday, the bill beats Monday's crossover deadline, which means the House or Senate must approve the measure before the 30th day of this year's legislative session.

That is Monday, March 3.


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