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Hall County elections board approves Sunday early voting for the first time
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Voters come out to Gainesville Exploration Academy Friday, May 22, 2020, to cast their ballot for the June 9 primary. - photo by Scott Rogers

Hall County residents will be able to vote early on two Sundays for the first time leading up to primary races in May. 

After lengthy discussion, members of the Board of Elections and Registrations voted, 4-1, on Tuesday, Jan. 4, to approve the following early voting hours from May 2-20.

  • 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday at seven polling locations

  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays May 7 and May 14 at all seven locations

  • 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays May 8 and May 15 at Brenau Downtown Center 

Board members also asked Elections Manager Paige Thompson to search for an additional Sunday location in South Hall. Most polling locations do not have availability on Sunday, Thompson said, and it would be difficult to find space in South Hall. Brenau was one of the only locations with availability, she told the board. 

Election day is on May 24. The early voting portion of the election is expected to cost $217,826.

Early voting will be held at the following locations, with two polling places yet to be determined. 

  • North Hall Community Center

  • East Hall Community Center

  • Mulberry Creek Community Center

  • Spout Springs Library

  • Brenau Downtown Center

Thompson said staff was working to confirm additional locations in South Gainesville and in the Murrayville area. The elections board will hold a special called meeting at 5 p.m. on Jan. 11 to confirm additional early voting locations. 

The board has continued to expand early voting access in the past two years. In 2020, Hall County held weekday early voting at multiple locations for the first time. Previously all early voting, except for some Saturdays, was available only at the county’s administrative building at 2875 Browns Bridge Road. 

The board was given several options from staff for different early voting arrangements. More early voting hours offers more accessible voting, but it will also require hiring more poll workers, which have been in short supply.

A major election such as this one typically requires about 600 poll workers, Thompson said, and in 2020 the county had to hire 250 new poll workers, because they tended to be older and did not want to work during high risk periods of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m assuming that it may be the same again this year,” she said.

When asked if she could staff Sunday voting, Thompson replied, “It will be very difficult. 1-5 (p.m.) at one location I can probably do.” 

Republican Board Member Craig Lutz was the only opposing vote, saying Sunday hours could confuse voters. 

“My main concern about the Sunday voting is the fact that it isn’t consistent with all the other early voting,” Lutz said. 

Director of Elections Lori Wurtz said her staff would advertise the different Sunday voting hours appropriately. 

Chairman Tom Smiley said Rep. Matt Dunik, R-Gainesville, wrote a letter to the board requesting it approve at least one Sunday voting day. During public comments, Brandon Sims, Georgia faith outreach coordinator for the voting rights activist group Look Ahead America, also supported Sunday voting.