DeKalb County to hire help to process absentee ballots
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By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor
Greater Decatur, GA — To deal with an influx of absentee ballots, DeKalb County plans to hire additional staff and collaborate with national voting organizations. DeKalb County processed upwards of 100,000 absentee ballots in the June primary, a number expected to increase for the Nov. 3 election.
More people are voting by mail due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a special called meeting on July 16, DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections unanimously passed a motion to hire personnel in communications, processing, and tech support. The motion was the final piece of a resolution held over from July 9.
Vice chair Baoky Vu, board member Dele Lowman Smith, and DeKalb Director of Voter Registration and Elections Erica Hamilton met last week with a working group to review the department’s organizational chart.
Smith described the last few days as a flurry of meetings, resulting in a productive resolution.
“It was very enlightening, and we were able to come up with some recommendations for how the department can organize itself to work with a partner – which is the National Vote at Home Institute as well as the Center for Technology and Civic Life,” she said.
Smith said National Vote at Home Institute is working with other counties in metro Atlanta. Along with the Center for Tech and Civic Life, an agency that helps election officials with communication and technology, the Dekalb County Voter Registration & Elections Office is planning to roll out virtual training for poll workers.
Smith said she is “still working on getting budget numbers” but anticipates additional staff will cost less than projected.
Vu said he is extremely satisfied with the outcome. “As the old African proverb says, ‘If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.’ I believe we are in a much better place now,” he said.
The board continues to review polling places for availability and accessibility. Board chair Samuel Tillman said small polling places, like those that can hold only four voting machines, must be reviewed.
Tillman said Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary Board is willing to allow voting at a larger facility than June’s polling place, Stonecrest Library. Lithonia’s polling place, Rock Chapel Road Elementary, may also be changing.
Tillman urged all elected officials to use social media to promote voting by mail to avoid long lines on Nov. 3.
“Like me, you may have received hundreds if not thousands of emails, text messages, from citizens, elected officials, just voters in DeKalb County,” Tillman said. “I would like to urge and request all the elected officials, whether you are a county commissioner, a state senator, a state rep, a school board member. If you will use your social media account to contact your constituents and urge them to vote and to vote early using the paper ballot advanced voting. This will be a tremendous help.”
DeKalb County run-off election is Aug. 11. Advanced voting begins July 20 at Voter Registration and Elections office, South DeKalb Mall, and Dunwoody Library. After July 27, advanced voting is also held at Reid H. Cofer Library in Tucker and Stonecrest Library in Lithonia. Voters can see current election information by clicking here.
The next meeting for DeKalb County Voter Registration and Elections board is Aug. 21.
According to its website, DeKalb County Voter Registration and Elections registers eligible citizens to vote and assigns voters to precincts in accordance with state and federal laws; conducts all federal, state, county and municipal elections in accordance with Georgia’s election code; and operates all polling locations including advance voting locations and an absentee poll for federal, state, county, and municipal elections conducted in DeKalb County.
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