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DeKalb County receives almost $5 million grant to spend on elections

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DeKalb County receives almost $5 million grant to spend on elections

 

Carol Calvert holds a sign during a ‘Get out the Vote’ rally hosted by the Avondale Alliance for Racial Justice in Avondale Estates on September 19, 2020. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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Decatur, GA — The Center for Tech and Civic Life has awarded a $4.8 million grant to DeKalb County to spend on local elections.

“The CTCL grant will allow DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections to hire more personnel, purchase additional voting and mail ballot sorting equipment, open and operate additional early voting and Election Day locations, ensure sanitization of voting equipment and purchase sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for both poll workers and voters,” a press release from the county says.

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond said the money is needed to address ongoing issues with the Elections Board.

“These funds will be used to address longstanding operational issues and increase voter safety and confidence in our voting process,” Thurmond said.

The county also plans a “comprehensive review” of the elections system “to ensure that citizens can participate in a fair, free and convenient elections process.”

Commissioner Larry Johnson had a key role in landing the grant.

“I would like to thank the Board of Commissioners for their support in helping to secure this grant,” he said in the press release. “This is a gamechanger for DeKalb. We have the opportunity to be innovative, add more poll workers, and add more voting locations throughout the county. We can be a model of service for the state and the country.”

The commission has pledged funds to help the Elections Board this year. The elections process will likely be complicated by the number of absentee and early voters.

The Board of Registration and Elections has been sending mixed messages about funding additional staff to handle the anticipated rush of voters.

Board Chair Sam Tillman said DeKalb County has historically denied the Voter Registration and Elections Department’s requests for additional staff to manage elections.

“For the past 10 or 12 years, every year when we submitted our budget we put in for additional staff. Every year. And every year, those additional people that we had requested, was turned down,” he said. “We have always been short-staffed. We have never had more than 15 or 18 people in this office at any time.”

 

But when DeKalb County Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson joined the Elections Board meeting on Sept. 14, she said commissioners are willing to contribute unlimited funds to the Elections Board.

Davis Johnson noted Fulton County was awarded a grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life to pay for staff at the polls and postage for mail-in ballots.

“If we can get at least what Fulton County got, which was $6 million, we would add to the unlimited amount the commissioners are pretty much committing to give to the Board of Elections this election,” she said at the Sept. 14 meeting.

Writer Logan C. Ritchie contributed to this report. 

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