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People pass a ballot box on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020 in Athens, Georgia. The box is located outside the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections office along East Washington Street. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach; @taylormckenzie_photo)

The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections unanimously approved the University of Georgia's Stegeman Coliseum as an early voting location at a meeting Friday afternoon, two days after UGA publicly ruled out Tate Student Center. 

Early voting will take place on Oct. 27–29 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m, Director of Elections and Voter Registration Charlotte Sosebee said. A courtside club room will be used in lieu of the gymnasium floor for security reasons. 

Friday’s resolution came following a few days of confusion and public outcry regarding UGA’s decision. 

“Thank you to everyone who spoke up about this topic and helped make the right thing happen for the Athens-Clarke County community,” said Jesse Evans, chairperson of the ACC Board of Elections. 

Evans said the ACC Board of Elections had already approved both Tate and Stegeman as early voting locations this summer. Then it was told on Aug. 27 that Tate couldn’t be used due to COVID-19. On Sept. 4, the board received word from UGA that Stegeman also couldn’t host voters because of liability issues, Sosebee said. 

UGA publicly released its initial decision on Wednesday, sparking online criticism. The university told UGA Votes, an on-campus nonpartisan group dedicated to registering students to vote, that Tate wouldn’t be used as an early voting location as it had been in 2016 and 2018, citing concerns over insufficient indoor space. About three hours later, it left open the possibility of other voting locations. 

Then, around noon Thursday, UGA announced it had offered Stegeman Coliseum to Athens-Clarke County and Georgia Secretary of State’s office as an early voting location. 

A few hours after a Thursday morning invitation from UGA, ACC Board of Elections staff toured Stegeman to evaluate the facility’s size, security and internet capacity. The board decided the arena was suitable, but only if machines weren’t located on the gym floor. 

“We did discuss [using the gym floor], and it wasn’t deemed to be possible,” ACC Board of Elections assistant Lisa McGlaun said. “They showed us their largest rooms that are enclosed and locked off of the concourse. This is a very large room. It’s about the size of an indoor gymnasium at one of the elementary schools.”

Stegeman Coliseum will be Athens’ sixth advance voting location. Students who wish to take advantage of on-campus early voting must be registered in Clarke County. The board expects about 1,500 individuals to vote at Stegeman Coliseum, Sosebee said. 

More information can be found on the ACC website.

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