Change is in the air when it comes to voting in Augusta.
Augusta Board of Elections director Lynn Bailey says one proposed change would cut the number of polling sites open on Election Day by 6, from 50 to 44. Some of those that would be closed include St. Johns Towers, Peabody Apartments and Cokesbury Methodist Church.
But, Bailey says doesn't expect fewer sites will mean longer lines. "You beef up your equipment, you beef up your poll workers. So, while there may be more people, they shouldn't experience any more of a wait," said Bailey.
Bailey says more people are voting early so an advanced voting site will be added at Diamond Lakes Park.
Doctor Charles Smith, of the Augusta chapter of the NAACP believes in the Elections Board, but says the organization will take a close look at the proposed changes. "Any changes that would suppress vote or dilute voting strength for African Americans or citizens in general in the community will be dealt with will be challenged," said Doctor Smith.
But, it's not only just new polling sites. For Augusta, it is a new primary date. The Federal Court is shifting Congressional and Senate primaries from July to May. The state primary remains, for now ,in July. To avoid the costs of two primaries two months apart, Bailey says Georgia officials are being urged to change the state primary to May as well.
A bill passed last year switched Augusta's city elections to the primary date, meaning if that bill returns and the primary date changes, the vote for Mayor and Commission next year could be held in May instead of November.
"We would think, with a federal judge ruling to shift primaries to May, that is going to be a concern, and the NAACP is working around the clock. We plan to challenge this decision," said Doctor Smith.
"At the end of the day, if our community is receptive to the proposal, or once we are satisfied we've gotten the feedback we need the board will then have to weigh that feedback against the best path moving forward and make a decision to whether implement or not," said Bailey.
Bailey says the Richmond County Board of Elections will hold a public hearing in October before making a final decision on the proposed voting changes.
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