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WABE’s Week In Review: Early Voting Preview, COVID-19 Updates, A Possible Runoff For Both Senate Seats

Poll workers attend a training class in Cobb County, four weeks before Election Day, when record turnout is expected across Georgia.
Poll workers attend a training class in Cobb County, four weeks before Election Day, when record turnout is expected across Georgia.
Credit Emil Moffatt / WABE

In-person early voting for the November election in Georgia begins Monday, and counties have placed a major emphasis in the last several months on recruiting and training poll workers.

In June, several counties in Georgia and metro Atlanta in particular saw long lines, blamed in part on poll workers who were unfamiliar with the voting equipment. Many longtime poll workers also dropped out because of fears over the coronavirus. Emil Moffatt told us what one county is doing about it. 

The biggest polling place in Georgia… 

State Farm ARena
State Farm Arena will be open to registered Fulton County voters seven days a week to cast their ballot, according to arena officials. (John Bazemore/Associated Press file)

On this coming Monday, WABE will broadcast live from State Farm Arena, the state’s largest-ever early-voting center. “Morning Edition” host Lisa Rayam a will be live at the arena talking to election officials and voters. We’ll break down the ballot, too.

“It’s just such an overwhelmingly positive feeling from our people that they actually get to participate in their democracy,” said Steve Koonin, CEO of the Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena.

Nearly 300 full-time employees are trained and ready to serve as poll workers, which is double the number compared to the arena’s first early-voting trial run in August, according to Koonin.

The arena will be open to registered Fulton voters seven days a week to cast their ballot, according to State Farm Arena officials. The arena will follow recommended guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on COVID-19 safety measures.

Recruiting minority volunteers for a possible vaccine… 

Drs. Colleen Kelley and Valeria Cantos are helping run a coronavirus vaccine trial at Emory University. They say it’s not easy to get Black and Latinx people to volunteer for medical research, even though they’ve been the groups hardest hit by COVID-19. Hear their full interview on our coronavirus podcast, “Did You Wash Your Hands?”

Suing over ‘reckless’ school openings… 

Paulding County school bus
“Decisions by some of our leaders have led to classroom and school environments that endanger our children,” Georgia Association of Educators President Lisa Morgan said in a statement. (Brynn Anderson/Associated Press file)

A statewide teachers’ group has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Brian Kemp, State Schools Superintendent Richard Woods, Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey and other state and local officials for “reckless guidance and actions in opening school buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Georgia Association of Educators says it filed the complaint in Fulton County Superior Court this week. Martha Dalton told us about it. 

Atlanta parents have a decision to make… 

students go back to school
Parents of Atlanta Public School students have to decide whether their children will return to the classroom or continue with virtual learning. (Brynn Anderson/Associated Press file)

Parents of Atlanta Public School students have until Monday to decide whether their children will return to the classroom or continue with virtual learning. At a recent APS Board meeting, the district issued its reopening plan: Pre-K through fifth grade and some special education students go back this month. Grades six to 12 could potentially go back come November.

The decision rests on the number of Georgia’s positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. But many APS parents and educators are questioning the plan, citing myriad reasons. 

Two runoffs for Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats? 

Polling suggests that Georgia could be headed for two U.S. Senate runoff races come January. It’s because of Georgia’s voting rule, Susanna Capelouto reported.

Georgia is the only state in the country that requires a majority to win in a general election. For Georgia’s Senate race that features John Ossoff and incumbent David Perdue, that rule could apply because of a third candidate in the race, Libertarian Shane Hazel.

“Now there’s a Libertarian in the contest, so if the two candidates get 48 and 49 [%] or the Libertarian gets 3%, there we will not just have one, but two Senate runoffs in January 2021,” said University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock.

The other open U.S. Senate seat is a 21 candidate free-for-all election, that’s not expected to  produce a majority winner in November either. So the U.S. Senate majority could be decided in January by Georgia voters.