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SB363 seeks equal voting hours

Georgia State students who live within Atlanta’s perimeter may not be able to vote for as long as they used to, after the introduction of a new bill from the Georgia Senate.

On February 23, the Senate passed a bill that would reduce voting hours in Atlanta and would disallow voting on the last Sunday before elections–a day that often held high African-American turnout. Senate Bill 363 (SB363), introduced by Republican Sen. Matt Brass, includes changing the voting hours within the city and reducing the number of allowed early voting days.

Currently, the city of Atlanta’s voting laws require polls to be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. during election seasons, as well as a required Saturday polling day for early voters. Districts have been granted the right to provide an additional early voting day on a Sunday if they choose.

SB363 would change these rules, according to Sen. Brass in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, to introduce more uniformity to state voting. Areas across the state with populations less than 300,000 have voting hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

After SB363, large cities including Atlanta would have voting hours that match the rest of the state, closing an hour earlier than before. The bill would also limit early voting days to one Saturday or Sunday, not both.

According to Sen. Brass, the bill is designed to produce more fair elections, allowing citizens across the state an equal amount of time to cast their ballots.

“One person should not be allowed to vote one hour longer than another person,” Brass told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

But Georgia State student and Midtown resident Austin King said the bill will create an even crazier rush hour and will only work in the benefit of people who can vote within that time frame.

“The capacity of Atlanta is huge. Rush hour starts around 3:30 and typically doesn’t end until around 7. Imagine all of those people trying to get to the voting area during rush hour traffic. They can’t get to it because it closes at 7. [The bill] is going to limit a lot of voters, unless you have the privilege of being able to get there on time. A lot of people don’t have that privilege, so they need an extra hour sometimes or another day,” he said.

The bill comes after Governor Deal expressed displeasure in Dekalb County’s use of the extra Sunday law, which the county admitted was used to increase turn-out from African Americans, who overwhelmingly vote as Democrats.

Olivia Mitrovich, event coordinator for Georgia State’s College Republicans, said that she does not think the bill will make much of a difference to voters. “With it only cutting it down about an hour, I don’t think that it should be a problem,” Mitrovich said.

Mitrovich said she and the organization support the passage of the bill and believe it would be advantageous.

“Some areas across the state do close earlier, so I believe the students in those districts are not given the same time frame that we are allotted in Atlanta and things could get tricky. I definitely agree with having uniformity,” she said.

But Evan Malbrough, president of Georgia State’s Young Democrats, said that he thinks the bill is solely designed to suppress Democratic votes.

“Cutting the voting time would be more detrimental than helpful. We shouldn’t prioritize uniformity over functionality. I believe it is targeted at Democrats because we’re talking about Atlanta, which is a very large Democrat population that’s growing,” Malbrough said.

He said the bill targets people working service jobs who may work later than most, and don’t have the luxury of time to get to voting locations.

“I feel like an extra hour would allow for more streamlined voting. It’s hard for someone who works late to just hop into a security line because the voting lines are already very long,” Malbrough said.

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