Why didn’t DeKalb Elections Board stick with 7 am-7 pm early voting?

Saturday morning, I received an email noting a change in DeKalb County’s early voting schedule for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District Runoff. Dunwoody Library is gone, replaced by Dunwoody Methodist Church. Disruptive, perhaps, but there’s some good news, as well: The new site will open earlier, on May 30, in line with the other new EV locations in Tucker, Chamblee, and Brookhaven.

In a tweet, the Board (@DeKalbVotes) called this a “correction.”

That’s not what it is. It’s a change.

And as long as the Board is making changes—or “corrections”—I would suggest that an even more appropriate change/correction would be to bring the hours of operation at all Early Voting sites in line with widespread public demand for expanded hours from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

There has been some confusion over this issue. When Sally Harrell and other community activists showed up at the April 24 Board of Elections meeting, the call for these expanded hours was clear. When the issue was decided May 11, the issue was muddled.

On May 11, several hours before the Board meeting, I visited the Tucker Rec Center and spoke with director William Smith. He not only told me the building would be an early voting site, but he also read me details from an email from the County. It would open May 30, have Saturday voting on June 10, with hours of operation from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

BOE member Michael Conlevy made the motion to expand voting to Tucker, Chamblee, Brookhaven, and Dunwoody, which passed unanimously after discussion. However, I didn’t hear any mention about hours of operation in the motion. Puzzled by this, I passed a note to Mr. Conlevy during discussion,  asking, “What are the hours for early voting?”

He wrote “Up to staff” and passed the slip of paper back to me. See?

After the vote, Board Chairman Samuel Tillman said that the hours for early voting would be 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. But Mr. Tillman didn’t put this in the form of a motion; therefore the issue was never voted on. This is reflected in the official minutes of the meeting, which make no mention of hours of operation.

Mr. Conlevy’s intent in making the motion was to defer to staff’s judgment on the issue of operating hours. Perhaps Mr. Tillman’s intent was to “guide” staff in its judgment, but his action fell outside the parameters of parliamentary procedure, and the minutes make no mention of his comment. And based on what I learned from talking to Mr. Smith at Tucker Rec, I believe that the Board’s staff planned on hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. before the Chairman’s informal interjection.

Now, since the Board staff has already demonstrated that it is free to make changes—or “corrections”—to Board decisions, there is nothing stopping it, at this still-early date, from implementing the hours of operation that DeKalb County voters overwhelmingly support, especially since it was empowered to do so by the Board’s silence on the issue.

Was the Board’s staff improperly influenced by the chairman’s comments? We need to speak to Mr. Tillman, as well. In the long run, we need to figure out exactly how the Board sets policy and make sure it’s open and transparent. As Ms. Harrell, now a candidate for state Senate, observed at a Board meeting, “Things changed on November 8.”

In the meantime, we have a critical election looming. Let the people vote!

Contact: Samuel Tillman, Chairman
Maxine Daniels, Executive Director
DeKalb Board of Registration and Elections
4380 Memorial Drive, Suite 300
Decatur, GA 30032-1239
Telephone: 404-298-4020
Twitter: @DeKalbVotes
voterreg@dekalbcountyga.gov

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