— By Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 16, 2020 —
Student groups, politicians and one of the state’s top elections officials urged the University of Georgia to reverse course Wednesday and allow early voting on campus, prompting the school to review its policy.
School spokesman Greg Trevor said late Wednesday that UGA is “more than willing” to consider Stegeman Coliseum or another site that’s approved by local elections officials and the Secretary of State’s office.
The outrage followed a Wednesday statement from UGA Votes, a student-led voting rights group, that it was “deeply saddened” that the school would not allow on-campus, in-person voting at a student center over concerns social distancing would be unenforceable.
Trevor, the UGA spokesman, initially said the school decided early this summer not to hold an on-campus site for the three-week early voting period that begins Oct. 12 because of long voting lines and “insufficient indoor space” at the Tate Center complex where it would have been staged.
Still, the school’s efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 has caused strains between the Athens-Clarke County government and UGA officials over how to contain the disease.
Mokah Johnson, a Democratic House candidate for an Athens-based district, urged the school to consider a “higher capacity outdoor venue that UGA already believes can safely accommodate” thousands during the pandemic: Sanford Stadium, the football venue on campus where gridiron games will soon be played.
The school also faced criticism from Jordan Fuchs, the chief deputy to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who is Georgia’s top elections official.
“As an alumna, I have the utmost respect for the greatest institution this country has ever seen,” she said. “But UGA needs to evaluate the needs of the community it serves and open its doors to the taxpayers and voters that make their success possible.”