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Voting influences Fulton’s wish list for the state Legislature

Fulton County Government Center (Credit: Kelly Jordan) Fulton County Government Center (Credit: Kelly Jordan)

By Maggie Lee

About this time every year, Georgia’s counties and cities start listing what they’re going to lobby the state Legislature for come January. Fulton’s thinking lately about voting.

So far, the 17-slide draft wish list is based on last year’s ideas plus input from county departments and other counties and covers a lot of topics like public health and CARES Act funding and tax-assessing. Fulton County’s elected commissioners got a look at it in a presentation from the external affairs office on Wednesday.

And a key idea has reappeared from the list of about a year ago: let voters vote at any polling place in their county on Election Day.

Right now, if people vote early, they can go to any early polling location in their county. But on Election Day, voters have to go to their home precinct.

As for new ideas, the list proposes loosening up rules on what locations can be polling places and where ballot drop boxes can be set up. Something like a drop box at a MARTA station would be nice, say.

Atlanta-area District 4 Commissioner Natalie Hall proposed also asking the state to allow same-day voter registration. No Georgia county can do that unilaterally. The idea would have to go through the state.

“Nineteen states plus the District of Columbia allow same-day registration,” Hall said.

And three more states are either going to have it soon or already have same-day registration for some races, according to the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures.

Northeast Fulton District 1 Commissioner Liz Hausmann called that same-day registration idea a political hot potato.

“I don’t necessarily think that all of us would agree on adding it to our package at this time,” she said.

South Fulton District 6 Commissioner Joe Carn said would agree with adding it though. He called same-day registration the “gold standard” and said he’d love to have it in the state.

But he’s also realistic.

“In terms of the possibilities of his passing … with a Republican-led state, there’s not that much interest in all likelihood,” Carn told his fellow commissioners.

The states that allow same-day voter registration are in fact a mix of red and blue and purple, like Utah, California and Michigan. So are the 17 states that allow use of “vote centers” on Election Day: vote anywhere in your county you want instead of being limited to just your neighborhood precinct.

But in Georgia, those ideas haven’t taken off in the Republican-led state Legislature. Democrats have repeatedly filed bills for same-day voter registration that have gone nowhere.

As for Fulton’s lobbying list, the Commission isn’t scheduled to vote on the agenda for at least two weeks, until the commissioners have time to review it and propose and debate changes.

Documents:

Nov. 4, 2020: Fulton DRAFT Legislative agenda for 2021

Georgia State Election Board rules on ballot drop box locations

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Maggie Lee

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

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