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Local election officials discuss new bill, polling locations

At a meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Voter Registrations and Elections on Tuesday, April 6, members of the board talked about the new election rules.

As Georgia Senate Bill 202, which has been the subject of national debate since being signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp on March 25, creates new election rules in the state, local officials said they are still getting up to speed with the changes. 

“We are going through it, going over it, asking any questions,” Smith said. “[We’ll look at] the specifics, how some of this gets put into place.”

Smith said changes in the bill would impact absentee ballot applications, envelopes sent out for them, the online portal for the ballot application and other factors. 

“What could be a one-liner in the bill could result in hours of work for us in updating procedures and figuring out a whole different system in how to handle it,” Smith said.

Barbara Luth, Forsyth County’s chief registrar and chair of the elections board, said the sections of the law she had read over didn’t seem as extreme as some have made them out to be and that she hopes “people start reading the bill” before giving criticisms

“A lot of what I’ve heard on the news is not what this bill says,” Luth said, “and, we do offer free IDs to anyone that doesn’t have one.”

Luth said she was confident the department’s staff would be able to deal the changes. 

“It didn’t seem, when I read it, that the changes were anything we couldn’t handle,” Luth said. “There are going to be costs to it and some different things and some changes we’ll have to make.”

When asked by board member Joel Natt whether any local polls faced hour-long waits to vote on Election Day last year, Smith said: “I believe so, but I would have to back to check and see.”

Smith said the department had received some information provided by the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia, but nothing from the state.

“The state has not sent out anything,” Smith said. “They have acknowledged that it passed and they are working on it.” 

Smith said she would rather some information come from the state rather than different counties working on their own for the changes.

New voting locations proposed 

Forsyth County voters could have new locations to cast ballots in future elections.

At a meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Voter Registrations and Elections on Tuesday, April 6, members of the board heard a presentation about 15 potential new Election Day polling locations around the county. Members voted unanimously to have staff prepare maps of the locations and new precinct lines for future discussions and public hearings. 

“These are locations that have been contacted and let us know they are willing to be considered as Election Day polling places,” said Mandi Smith, director of the Forsyth County Department of Voter Registrations and Elections. “[They’re] a combination of some clubhouses at communities, as well as churches.”

Smith said leaders with one previous election site, Grace Chapel Church of Christ in the Polo Precinct, had decided not to be a future polling place.

The possible Election Day sites are:

• Silver City Baptist Church, 3710 Jewell Bennett Road;

• Grace Fellowship Church of South Forsyth, 2750 Ronald Reagan Boulevard;

• Vision Baptist Church, 355 Windy Hill Drive;

• Greater Heights Baptist Church, 3790 Post Road; 

• Deer Creek Shores Presbyterian Church, 7620 Lanier Drive;

• The Vine Community Church, 4655 Bethelview Road;

• Saint Marol Country Club Cabana, 755 Saint Marlo Country Club Parkway;

• North Lanier Baptist Church, 829 Atlanta Highway;

• Bethany Primitive Baptist Church, 5101 Old Atlanta Road;

• New Home United Methodist Church, 7850 Old Keith Bridge Road;

• Cumming First United Methodist Church, 770 Canton Highway;

• Christ Community Church, 5455 Campground Road;

• Chattahoochee River Club Clubhouse, 4110 River Club Drive;

• Stonehaven Pointe Clubhouse, 100 Town Manor Place;

• Thorngate Clubhouse, 1350 Morning Gate Court.

Smith said the list was “a start” and would require further meetings and public hearings before any decision was made.

“Overall, they are fairly strategically located, obviously, intentionally on our part,” she said. “We know it’s a struggle to find places that are willing to be polling places.”

She said there are some requests still being considered by other locations and the new locations in place for the 2022 election cycle.

The process would also require new district precinct lines, which would be drafted ahead of the hearings.

The item is planned to come back to a future board meeting.