Early voting for Atlanta Board of Education elections kicks off on Oct 16. Ten candidates are vying for five seats on the board, which governs Atlanta Public Schools and its more than 50,000 students across the city.
With polls opening soon, Capital B Atlanta answered some frequently asked questions people might have about the school board elections and voting process. Read on for what you need to know before casting your vote.
Why should I vote in school board elections?
Because school board members fly under the radar but have very important jobs that affect young people, families, and educators in your community.
They oversee the board’s annual budget, which was pegged at about $1.7 billion for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. The board has faced public criticism about a lack of transparency around policy and budget decisions.
The board is also tasked with the hiring — and firing — of superintendents, which APS has unfortunately seen a revolving door of in recent years. The candidates who prevail in this November’s election will have to help replace previous Superintendent Lisa Herring, who board members decided not to retain after the current school year.
But one of the board’s most pressing obligations is addressing gaps in racial equity and achievement. APS suffers from severe racial disparities in school discipline that critics say pushes too many Black youths into the school-to-prison pipeline. (Capital B Atlanta interviewed school board candidates about how they’d address the issue. You can read their responses here.)
The district has also faced criticism due to community concerns about stagnant literacy scores. According to Spring 2023 Georgia Milestones English Language Arts score results, 55% of Black third-graders in APS were reading below grade level, while 45% are reading on grade level or above. In comparison, only 5% of white third-graders in APS were reading below grade level, with 95% of the group reading on grade level or above.
To track Georgia Milestones results by race, you can use the Georgia Department of Education’s interactive tool.
I don’t really know much about my candidates. Who’s running and why?
Don’t sweat it.
Capital B Atlanta has partnered with Atlanta Civic Circle for our #APSVotes project in an effort to tell you everything you need to know about the 2023 APS board election. We’ve created a comprehensive election guide that includes profiles of all 10 candidates that details their educational and professional backgrounds, platforms, and stances. The profiles also include candidate responses to questions we sourced through community engagement.
You can check out the profiles here.
What are some important dates I need to know around the election?
Early voting begins Oct. 16, but Election Day is set for Nov. 7. Here are some other important dates you need to know:
- Oct. 16: First day of early voting. Voters can also begin to mail in absentee ballots.
- Oct. 21, Oct. 28: Mandatory Saturday voting dates
- Oct. 22, Oct. 29: Optional Sunday voting dates
- Oct. 27: Deadline to submit an absentee ballot
- Nov. 3: Early voting ends
- Nov. 7: Election Day
Polls will be open in Atlanta on Election Day from 7 a.m to 8 p.m.
How will SB 202 affect my voting process?
Signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp in 2022, SB 202 enacted sweeping voting restrictions that could have an effect on Black voters, including changes to absentee ballots, drop boxes, and state identification card requirements.
Under SB 202, voters must have requested an absentee ballot 11 to 78 days prior to Election Day. It is now also illegal for local city and county election boards to automatically mail absentee ballots to all voters.
The number of drop boxes also decreased when state law limited each county to just one drop box per 10,000 voters. Boxes, which formerly were placed outdoors and available 24/7, now must be placed inside early voting sites or election offices that are open only during specific hours.
While residents always needed a state ID card to vote in person on Election Day, having an identification card was not originally required for those who opted to vote via mail. Now, in order to request an absentee ballot, voters must send in a valid driver’s license or state ID card.
How can I find my APS School District?
To find your APS school zone district, you can use this interactive tool. All you need to do is type in your address to determine which cluster services your neighborhood.
I think my district has been rezoned. How can I find out where my polling location is?
Eligible voters will rely on their Atlanta City Council districts to find their polling locations.
To learn which City Council district you are in, you can use the city of Atlanta’s interactive tool, MapATL. You can also head over to the Georgia Secretary of State website to check your polling site and see if anything has changed.
The city municipal clerk’s office also keeps an updated list of voting precinct maps per council district on its website.
My district is currently not up for election this year. Do I still have to vote?
While only residents living in Districts 1, 3, and 5 can vote for candidates running for those seats, the contests for at-large seats 7 and 9 are open to voters citywide.
Seat 7 represents all schools within districts 1 and 2, while Seat 9 represents all schools within districts 5 and 6.
I’m not sure if I’m registered to vote. Do I still have time?
Unfortunately, to vote in this year’s board elections, you had to be registered by Oct. 10 and have made any necessary changes, such as to your address or name, by then.
If you are unsure about the status of your voter registration, you can check it here.
Are you an Atlanta Public Schools parent or student? Have some concerns you want potential elected officials to address? We want to hear from you. Email our community engagement reporter, Sydney Sims, at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions and thoughts you have in the weeks leading up to Nov. 7.