Gwinnett County’s Board of Commissioners has agreed to give voters the choice to join MARTA.
The board’s chair called the decision, which earned the support of all five commissioners, historic.
But some transit advocates weren’t so enthusiastic, and the reason has to do with the timing of the vote.
Most expected it to take place this November at the same time as the midterm election. A notice ahead of the commission meeting referred to a fall vote.
But when Gwinnett County Commissioners approved the referendum Wednesday morning, the date changed to March of next year.
Some in the audience pleaded with the commissioners to move the transit vote back to November.
Resident Pam Cox said she’s fed up with traffic in the country and wants solutions now.
“We need to move this forward in November, not March. I’ve waited long enough,” Cox said.
Others raised concerns that scheduling the referendum for March would reduce turnout.
“It’s a lot harder and more likely to be defeated if it’s in a special election,” said Colleen Kiernan, executive director of Georgia Conservation Voters.
Board Chair Charlotte Nash said delaying the referendum was necessary to get the support of other commissioners.
She dismissed fears that the timing would affect the outcome of the vote.
“I think the same opportunity exists for every single voter in the county to register their opinion no matter what the date of the referendum is,” Nash said.
While all commissioners agreed to call for a transit referendum, that was not true for a separate measure establishing a contract with MARTA. Tommy Hunter was the lone commissioner voting against that.
Since MARTA began in the 1960s, Gwinnett County voters have rejected the transit agency twice.