Election officials revealed two additional voting locations for the upcoming Senate runoff elections will be opened in Cobb County, Georgia, the third-largest populated county in the state and a crucial battleground.
The news comes after voting rights activists again accused election officials of voter suppression, voicing concerns that lack of accessibility limits access for Black and Latino voters. On election Day last month, Cobb County had 11 early voting locations.
Five polling locations were expected to be accessible for the early voting period for a race that has far-ranging outcomes, not just for the state of Georgia but for the entire country. Early voting begins on Dec. 14 and ends the Friday prior to the election, according to Georgia.gov.
Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock face incumbents Republican Sens. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the Jan. 5 contests. Ossoff and Warnock each lead their challengers by 10 and 12 points in Cobb County, NBC News reported.
In response to the backlash, five total sites will be operational during the majority of the early voting period and two will be added in Marietta and Smyrna during the final week to accommodate the expected surge of last-minute voters.
“While these closures are likely to adversely affect many Cobb County voters, we are especially concerned that these closures will be harmful to Cobb County’s Black and Latinx voters because many of the locations are in Black and Latinx communities,” leaders from the NAACP and the ACLU said in a joint statement addressed to officials on Monday.
Election officials denied the accusation of voter suppression, claiming that lowering the number of poll sites was made in an effort to avoid overloading poll site workers who were overwhelmed during the Nov. 3 election.
The concerns around voter suppression in Georgia stem from a history of broken poll machines, poll site closures, voter purging and top election officials accusing congressional leaders and the White House of intimidation.
Last week leaders from Black Voters Matter and other prominent voting rights groups filed a lawsuit suing the state over voter roll purging.