For those who had to stand in long lines back in June to advance vote, there is some relief in sight.
The Muscogee County Elections Board will add an additional advance voting site prior to the General Election on November 3. For the final week of in-person advance voting, voters will be able to cast a ballot at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.
“As an election official dealing with COVID for the last six months, we know we need to expand opportunities for voters to vote the way they want to vote,” said Nancy Boren, director of Elections and Registrations. “Whether that’s in person, whether it’s by mail or whether it’s on election day. We are offering all those opportunities to vote and as many opportunities so they feel comfortable casting a ballot.”
In past elections, all of Columbus’s advance voting has been held at the City Service Center along Macon Road. In light of recent voting issues in Georgia, the expansion of advance voting sites is also happening in other parts of the state. Last month, it was announced that Fulton County will use State Farm Arena, home of the Atlanta Hawks.
The Muscogee County Elections office has partnered with the Convention & Trade Center to open that building as an advance polling site Oct. 26-Oct. 30. Just as with the City Service Center, any registered Muscogee County voter will be able to cast a ballot at the Trade Center.
“I have a large building — over 187,000 square feet that needs to be utilized,” said Hayley Tillery/Executive Director Columbus Convention & Trade Center. “So, if we can help the community in this way, then to me it’s a no-brainer. Especially if we can do it safely.”
And that’s what Boren was looking for as a large voter turnout is expected for the November 3rd election. It’s about more options.
“The Trade Center opportunity is a piece of that,” Boren said. “Allowing voters to choose between the Trade Center and the City Services Center to cast their ballot early.”
Back in June toward the end of the advance voting period, voters stood in long lines in inclimate weather. As many as 2,200 people voted in a single day. The Trade Center offers adequate parking, and a large room that can accommodate up to 50 voting machines.
Plus there’s a comfortable bonus. The lines will be in hallways inside, rather than outside.
Here’s how advance voting will work:
The City Service Center will be open from October 12th-October 30th. It will be open every day during that time, including weekends. The hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Trade Center will be open from October 26th-October 30th. The voting hours will be 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“We are always looking for alternative spots to vote,” Boren said. “Especially ones that are convenient, lots of parking, lots of space. As an election official, it’s my responsibility to do that. With the current COVID situation, there are a lot of facilities that are not being utilized to their maximum. So, we identified the Trade Center and contacted Hayley. She was certainly open to the discussion.”
The Trade Center was available because of a Covid-19-related cancelation.
“I had almost every room booked because it was Christmas Made in the South,” Tillery said. “Then Christmas Made in the South made the choice not to have an event this year. So, I had the space available.”