Georgia county adds two polling places following backlash

Rising COVID-19 rates and worker burnout in Cobb County were reportedly why they offered five locations, down from 11.

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Authorities in Cobb County, Georgia have announced that they will add two additional early voting locations for the state’s crucial Senate runoff election. 

The county had previously said rising cases of COVID-19 and election worker burnout were behind the decision to offer only five polling locations, down from 11 during the Nov. 3 general election. 

A Cobb County Sheriff holds sample ballots outside the Cobb County West Park Government Center where voters line up to early vote in Marietta, Georgia. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

The county serves more than 537,000 and will now have seven locations. 

Cobb County is the state’s third-most populous county, and Georgia’s two Democratic Senate challengers — Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock — and other voter rights advocates warned the voting site closures could disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic voters. 

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“Between COVID, the workload and the holidays, we have simply run out of people,” Elections Director Janine Eveler said in a statement Wednesday. “Many workers told us they spent three weeks working 14- or 15-hour days, and they will not do that again. We simply don’t have time to bring in and train up more workers to staff the number of locations we had for November.”

Cobb is the only county in the state to drastically reduce polling sites from the general election. 

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The county had defended the cuts by saying that voters would spend less time in line because there were only two races on the ballot. 

“No, it’s not a form of voter suppression; it’s a form of our staffing capabilities,” Cobb County Communications Director Ross Cavitt told NBC News. “I mean, we’re doing what we can with what we have.”

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The January 5 runoff election pitting Ossoff against Sen. David Perdue and Warnock against Sen. Kelly Loeffler will determine which party has control of the U.S. Senate. 

If Democrats secure both seats, the Senate will be divided equally, with 50 seats for each party, but Vice President Kamala Harris would be the tie-breaking vote. 

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