The Athens-Clarke County Commission unanimously passed a resolution to ensure future voter access in the county in retaliation to Georgia’s new voting law in a Tuesday night voting meeting.
The resolution states that County Manager Blaine Williams will develop a plan of action with the Board of Elections to “mitigate the impact” of Senate Bill 202 on ACC residents. SB 202 passed in the Georgia General Assembly on March 25, placing new restrictions on absentee voting and allowing state officials to take over local elections boards.
The resolution states that the county’s plan of action may include implementing a voter information campaign ahead of the 2022 election to make voting resources more accessible, maximizing the number of absentee ballot dropboxes and maximizing early voting locations across the county.
State Republicans argued that SB 202’s provisions would make Georgia’s elections more secure, and Gov. Brian Kemp said it expands access to voting. Democrats across the state and nation argued that it would make voting more difficult, especially for underrepresented groups.
“Over the last year, our democracy faced some attacks,” District 5 Commissioner Tim Denson said. “In the face of Senate Bill 202 passing … it’s important that we take this stand and say that we are going to do everything we possibly can to ensure that people are informed about those changes.”
Denson and District 3 Commissioner Melissa Link introduced the resolution to the commission. The commission of Fulton County passed a similar resolution in mid-April.
“We’re in a really precarious place in our democracy,” Link said. “The leadership of the state of Georgia would be happy to see a government of, by and for the people perish from this country. It’s up to us to take action to save democracy.”
Earlier in the meeting, the commission approved a request to name the gymnasium at Lay Park after Willie Hull, a former director of Lay Park, and rename the East Athens Community Center after Aaron Heard, a former director of the community center.
According to a letter in support of the renamings, Hull and Heard were both involved helping at-risk youth in the community during their careers. Heard retired from ACC Leisure Services in 2007, and Hull in 2010.
Commissioners also unanimously approved legislation to have the county apply for a $70,000 Violence Against Women Act grant from the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. If approved, the funding from the grant would be used to hire a full-time prosecutor who focuses on domestic violence cases.
In addition, the commission approved an ordinance to grant purchasing cards to certain elected officials to use for expenses directly related to their duties, as well as the SPLOST project to build a new river access point on Macon Highway. The purchasing card ordinance was revised before the voting meeting to exclude commissioners and the mayor from receiving these cards.