By Rebecca Gaunt
Despite the much cooler and gloomy weather, a crowd gathered for the new Cobb County elections headquarters ribbon-cutting and job fair in Marietta.
Poll worker Elizabeth Schupp, feeling relieved she had thought to grab her jacket for the event, is a retired teacher. She told the Courier she always required her students to choose an issue of personal importance and contact their legislators.
Even though elections can mean a 14-hour day, she said she loves the chance to meet so many people and hoped the job fair would draw new workers.
“We need more people involved,” she said.
The building at 995 Roswell St., about a block from the landmark Big Chicken, will consolidate election activities from around the county into one space.
Janine Eveler, director of Cobb elections, said the process started in 2013 when the then-commission requested she prepare a report on the challenges faced by trying to coordinate elections from multiple locations.
“We were 7.5 miles apart, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you’re transporting items back and forth…it was a big strain,” Eveler said.
She said the biggest issue occurred on election nights when the poll managers returned equipment to the warehouse, and then the ballots and the memory cards had to be transported to the West Park office.
“Obviously the more transporting that you’re doing with that critical material, the more the chain of custody becomes more squirrely. You get opportunities for things to go wrong,” she continued.
By the time Eveler was prepared to present, the makeup of the Board of Commissioners had changed. She presented her concerns about the small rooms, electrical issues, and elevator and ADA access concerns at the West Park office, as well as the contingencies required because the warehouse was located near the Cobb airport and train tracks.
When the new commissioners came on board with the vision, the next step was to find a location that would accommodate the county’s needs. There was a catch though. It had to be in the city of Marietta because the law requires the election headquarters to be in the county seat.
The Board ultimately approved the purchase of the 60,000-square-foot building for $7.5 million in 2020. Renovations cost about $3.9 million, funded by the county reserve and the American Rescue Plan.
“It is an amazing building,” said Tori Silas, chairwoman of the Cobb Board of Elections. “Over 500,000 registered voters, 147 precincts, 50 some-odd, give-or-take full-time staff members, upward of 100 seasonal workers, hundreds of poll workers. Having our administrative offices and our warehouse co-located will make what is a very complex and highly visible operation so much easier and so much simpler for Janine and her staff. And for that I’m immensely grateful.”
The new headquarters has 80 security cameras and requires badge access throughout.
There are dedicated spaces so workers can be trained on site on how to use the poll pads and other equipment. There are also dedicated rooms for early and elderly and disabled voting. Long hallways hopefully mean outdoor lines are a thing of the past.
“We want to make sure that all of our voters that will vote, can vote,” Cobb County Chairwoman Lisa Cupid told the crowd.
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.