Cobb County Board of Elections Meeting 01/13/20

PUBLIC COMMENT 

Jacquie Bettadapur – Chair of Cobb County Democrats – had some statistics regarding early voting and her concern that the first two weeks of early voting are only at the Whitlock location and one  other, which is pretty far for some Cobb County residents. Most Cobb County voters won’t drive  that far. Saw the same pattern last year. Extremely low turnout during those 1st two weeks. Only  145 voters during the first two weeks, but 357 voters on the first DAY of the third week when  other locations opened. Third week saw 1959 voters and very few of those were at Whitlock  location.  

George Balbona (took video of entire meeting) – spoke about paper ballots, verified voting,  untrusting paper trail. He has filed a FOIA request for emails on record. Concerns about voter  confirmation cards, low % of reply, voters got purged. Gave copies of SOS emails to board to be  submitted into the record. 

Sara Tindall Ghazal – former Voter Protection Director for Georgia Democrats and Candidate for  the House (Cobb Resident) – reiterated that there were not enough early voting locations, voter  confusion, higher number of provisional ballots. 

LAST MONTH’S MINUTES APPROVED 

Janine Eveler went over the latest group of changes to precincts (see attached Agenda). This  project is a long-standing project that started in 2017. She spoke to the reasons for the changes.  In 2018 there was an issue with a school under lockdown on election day. Had to extend voting time. Originally, polling places were in approximately 60 schools. Some of these current changes  were ready last fall but had to be postponed because of the municipal election, then a runoff.  Some of the changes are precinct splits, not just location changes, affecting over 6000 voters. The  timing is tricky coming into the 2020 election years. The Board has to be notified 90 days before an election of the changes (30 days before the board meeting during which they would be voted  upon). Notices must go out 60 days before the election. Next possible window would be  July/August. Currently – early voting options/increased locations are more than ever before for a  primary. Change cards will be sent out, signs posted at old locations, this round of changes they  will send out first class letters due to changes being so close to the time of the election. 

PUBLIC HEARING 

Caroline Holker – her polling place was changed last year, struggles to keep up, precinct cards  look like junk mail (get thrown away), her new location is on a difficult stretch of road. Wants  new round of changes to be postponed to 2021. If changes are made, will first class letters look  important. Deeply concerned over all of the changes to election process (new machines, etc.).  Shouldn’t add the location changes on top of that confusion. Cobb County needs to be a leader.  She expressed her appreciation for Cobb BOE.

Patricia Burns – Smyrna resident – requests that changes be postponed to 2021, not a good year to  make changes. Especially for the split districts. Only persistent voters will bother with going to  a second location if they find that their old location is no longer valid. 

Monica Delancy (advocate) – spoke about removing polling place from Pebblebrook. These are  Legacy voters, the polling place was in a separate building, not a security issue, walkable location  for voters. New location is not. She also spoke of changes to one of the Bryant polling places, but  her concerns were addressed. She thanked the board. 

Jacquie Bettadapur – These changes impact 43,258 voters. The changes were quietly posted in  the legal organ on January 4th. News article in MDJ on January 8 was her first notice, she feels  blindsided. She had conversation last year with Janine and Brenda and understood that there were not going to be any changes in 2020. Smyrna splits and changes seemed suspicious, given that the  Smyrna runoffs were so close. Her suspicions were somewhat alleviated by Janene’s explanations.  Board was not alerted to these changes. Need more transparent communication, need more  information. Are these changes REALLY necessary at this time, or could they be postponed to  2021? Long lines, voter confusion, increase in provisional ballots (perfect storm). 

Georgia (?) – agrees with others regarding Smyrna voters, lots of elderly voters, put more thought  behind the precinct splits, please postpone until 2021. 

George Balbona – reiterated his request that copies of emails be put into the record, was told that  was not something they normally do at these meetings. Of the 12 changes being made, 11 were  moving from schools to churches. Nothing against churches, but are these the only places  available. He attended the State Election Board meeting – too many changes – too much on the  plate, creating chaos, higher percentage of voters not knowing where to vote, need to do a cost  analysis of (school) security concerns. Facts v. Fearmongering. Doesn’t trust SOS. SOS should  not be in charge of designing precinct cards. 

Jessica Brooks – Secretary of the Cobb County BOE (Democratic Party Appointee) – We are  operating in a time of low voter confidence. She has been on the board for 5 years. Board’s job  is to provide oversight to staff, operate within code. Lots of obstacles that must be dealt with.  Voter education is critical – who is responsible? Certainly, the board is. Local parties? Civic  organizations? All parts of the community must play a part. She has same concerns as other  citizens, but thinks that the precinct splits are necessary now. 

Jessica and Janine had back and forth conversation. 

Janine – ½ million active voters, 141 precincts. Need to grow that number. Splitting helps that  process. 

Jessica – Fiscal resources? More for early voting? What would it take? 

Janine – already overbudget, getting more facility staffing 

BOARD VOTED TO APPROVE CHANGES. 

Janine then gave an update on the renovations to the Whitlock location, enlarging the registration  area and voting machine area. She then talked about changes at the warehouse to accommodate

new equipment. She also showed ways that they have tried to address the screen visibility issues  that became apparent during the municipal elections (frames around the screens for privacy,  different types of tables and setups). Prior to election, demo locations will be set up for voters to  experience the new equipment ahead of the election. “Road Show” 

Meeting ran nearly two hours. 

Next meeting February 10, 2020 at 4:00pm 

Prior to the meeting, I spoke with Jessica Brooks about the new meeting scheduled for 2020. My question dealt with the reasoning behind changing the election certification meetings to 12:00pm,  rather than at 4:00pm. She said that is was simply board member preference, since most of them have day jobs, they wanted to do those “extra” meetings at midday rather than at the end of the day. These will be difficult for me to attend since I work in Buckhead.


Did you know that the public can attend Board of Registration and Elections meetings? 

These meetings are open to the public by Georgia law. Georgia Open Meetings Act.

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