Cobb elections board votes to move Cooper 01 precinct to Calvary Baptist Church in Austell

Building with stucco finish and arched doorway housing the Cobb elections headquartersCobb election headquarters building on Whitlock Ave. (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

The Cobb County Board of Elections and Registration voted 4-1 to move the Cooper 01 voting precinct, which had moved from Cooper Middle School to the Cobb police training facility on the East West Connector, to Calvary Baptist Church at 4780 Flint Hill Rd SW, Austell, instead.

Objections had been raised at the October meeting by Rahul Garabadu, voting rights staff attorney for ACLU, that the location in a police facility could be intimidating to some among the Black majority voting population of the precinct.

Cobb County Police Chief Tim Cox had raised sharp objections to the talk of a move, stating that the facility was not intimidating to Black voters.

At that October meeting, board member Jennifer Mosbacher made a motion to table the discussion and the motion passed.

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At last Monday’s meeting where the final decision was made, Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler presented an alternative proposal to move the precinct to Calvary Baptist Church.

“We’d like to offer an alternative which is in the agenda today,” Eveler said. “We have been researching other locations in the vicinity. Other groups have been suggesting other alternatives as well. So we have found what we would consider a suitable third option.”

She said that the church is close to the original Cooper Middle School polling place, that the payment to the church would be $200 per election, that there is adequate parking at the church, and that there are no issues with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) compliance.

ADA compliance was why the move from Cooper Middle School was necessary.

After public comments on the move, where a number of commenters expressed objections to the move, a motion was made to accept the move to Calvary Baptist Church.

It passed 4-1 with Pat Gartland, the board representative from the Republican Party, opposing the move.

Gartland said during the discussion, “We’ve got to pay to use the taxpayer’s money to pay for the church.”

“We’ve got a free facility that the majority of the people are not opposed to, and the building has already been paid for by the taxpayers,” he said. “Anyhow. I would think that we should just stay at the police academy.”

Background

In a meeting in October the Cobb County Board of Elections and Registration tabled a final decision on whether to follow through with a previous decision to move the voting location, which was formerly in Cooper Middle School in Austell, to the Cobb County Police training facility on the East West Connector.

The precinct in question is Cooper 01.

At that meeting, Rahul Garabadu, voting rights staff attorney for ACLU raised an objection to the move to the police training facility. He said that relations between the Black community and police have often been strained and that some people in the heavily Black community comprising Cooper 01 would be reluctant to vote in a police facility.

Cobb County Police Chief Tim Cox argued for relocating Cooper 01 to the training facility.

“The reason I’m speaking today is really because of some media comments that I read recently concerning the last meeting,” he said at the October meeting. “And some of those comments seem to imply that the Cobb County Police Training Facility would be some form of an intimidation factor to citizens of this county.”

“Now the Cobb County Police Department Training Center falls under the Cobb County Police Department which actually I oversee ultimately,” he said. “So I’d like to address a couple of issues and then maybe just provide some insight of people who’ve used the facility in the past who have never indicated to me that they ever felt intimidated by walking in that facility.”

He said that both the Cobb NAACP and Cobb SCLC had been to events at the training facility and had never raised objections that they felt intimidated.

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