Democratic Politicians: Open Polls This Weekend

Saturday, 01 November 2008 10:24 By Mary Lou Pickle, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution | name.

Democratic Politicians: Open Polls This Weekend
Democratic leaders call for a weekend extension of early voting in Georgia. (Photo: Liz Condo / The Advocate)

    Democratic politicians came together Friday to decry the three to four hour waits that have become routine at some early voting locations. They urged Secretary of State Karen Handel and Gov. Sonny Perdue to extend voting hours through the weekend.

    "We need to take any and all steps to fix it, and fix it now," said Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia).

    Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said Handel and Perdue should follow the lead of neighboring states Florida and North Carolina, which have both extended voting through the weekend.

    Voters at the Adamsville Recreation Center in Atlanta didnt finish voting until 10:20 p.m. Thursday night because of a computer glitch. Such problems have slowed early voting lines this week.

    "It's unacceptable anywhere in Georgia," Franklin said, "but especially in the capital city."

    Deputy Secretary of State Rob Simms stood near the capitol building where the Democrats held their press conference Friday and countered the claims.

    "The Secretary of State does not have the authority to extend any polling hours in this state," Simms said.

    It's up to each county to ask for extended hours, he said.

    Such requests would have to be pre-cleared through the U.S. Department of Justice because they are a change in voting procedures, he said.

    The requirement applies to states with a history of discriminatory voting practices.

    State law does not permit voting on Monday, he said.

    Wait times at advance polling locations have varied. On Monday there were extreme waits of six to eight hours, when the state's voter registration verification computer slowed or stopped several times, adding more time to the processing of the long line of voters.

    Friday, the peak day of advance voting, lines stretched 800 to 900 long at some polls. Many counties had wait times of three hours throughout the week.

    "We're not making up the stories of people standing - in some cases - seven hours out in the cold to vote," said state Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta).

    "How can Miss Handel refuse to take action?" she asked.

    Atlanta City Council president Lisa Borders said the planning done for early voting was "clearly inadequate."

    Simms said that Handel's office has not discouraged counties from seeking to extend their voting hours.

    Coweta County applied for weekend voting in 1986, Simms said. Coweta's early voting polls have been open on Saturdays this month and will open again from 9 a.m. to noon tomorrow.

    Franklin said it doesn't matter whose fault it is that the lines have snowballed during early voting. The point is, as the top elections official in the state, Handel, should take leadership and try to fix the problem, she said.

    "The vote is precious, almost sacred," Lewis said. "We must do everything in our power to show the people of this state that our government is acting in good faith," he said.

Last modified on Saturday, 01 November 2008 11:04