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Behind a sign listing early voting dates for Fulton County, Georgia, a line forms outside of the State Farm Arena for early voting on Oct. 12, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP/Anderson) Behind a sign listing early voting dates for Fulton County, Georgia, a line forms outside of the State Farm Arena for early voting on Oct. 12, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP/Anderson)

Behind a sign listing early voting dates for Fulton County, Georgia, a line forms outside of the State Farm Arena for early voting on Oct. 12, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP/Anderson)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy April 7, 2021

Fox Business reporter wrong about history of Sunday voting in Georgia

If Your Time is short

  • Early voting on Sundays has been allowed in Georgia for every federal and state election since 2014, although not every county has offered it. In the 2020 general election, about 65,000 votes in Georgia were cast on Sundays.

  • Sunday voting days are historically popular among Black voters who travel to the polls from Sunday church services.

  • Georgia’s new law requires counties to provide two Saturdays of early voting and gives them the option to also offer two Sundays. Previously, they had to offer one Saturday for early voting and had the option to provide an additional Saturday and two Sundays.

Speaking about the controversial new elections law passed by Republicans in Georgia, Fox Business Network reporter Edward Lawrence wrongly claimed that the law’s provisions around early voting will allow Georgians to vote on Sundays for the first time.

"The fact is the law expands early voting to include Saturdays and Sundays," Lawrence said April 2 on Fox News. "Sunday was never used before as a voting day in Georgia."

That’s inaccurate. Sundays have been popular early voting days in Georgia for years among Black voters who use "souls to the polls" events to mobilize church goers to the ballot box. 

In the 2020 general election, approximately 65,000 votes were cast on Sundays, said Walter Jones, a spokesperson for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office.

Fox News did not offer comment for this fact-check.

What Georgia’s new law means for Sunday voting

After Georgia voters sent President Joe Biden and a pair of Democratic senators to Washington in the 2020 elections, the state’s GOP lawmakers drafted bills that they said would protect the vote, despite the fact that the state’s elections officials said the elections were safe and secure.

The law signed by Republican Gov. Brain Kemp made several changes to elections in the state, including adjustments related to early voting on the weekends leading up to Election Day. 

In 2020, counties had to offer one Saturday for early voting, and they had the option to make an additional Saturday and two Sundays available for early voting. The new law requires counties to provide two Saturdays of early voting and gives them the option of also offering two Sundays.

Georgia Republicans had initially proposed scrapping Sunday early voting altogether, but they backtracked following criticism.

The history of Sunday voting in Georgia

Voting after Sunday church services is a tradition for Black communities in Georgia and across the country that traces back decades to the civil rights movement. The phrase "souls to the polls" started being used in Florida in the 1990s, according to David D. Daniels III, a professor of church history at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.

Featured Fact-check

Sunday early voting was first allowed in Georgia in 2014, and it has been available for every state and federal election since then, Jones said. 

Not every Georgia county has allowed Sunday voting in the past. The text of the new law says that "more than 100 counties have never offered voting on Sunday."

But a list provided by the Georgia secretary of state’s office shows that during the 2020 general election, the 16 counties that offered Sunday early voting included several of the state’s most populous, such as Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Chatham, Clayton and Richmond counties.

In Gwinnett County northeast of Atlanta, early voting for the Nov. 3 election was offered Sunday, Oct. 18, and Sunday, Oct. 25. Early voting data provided by the county — the state’s second largest — shows that over 19,000 voters cast their ballots on those Sundays.

Black voters made up roughly 37% of those who voted early on Sundays in Georgia, even as Black people make up about 32% of the state’s population, the New York Times reported, citing internal data from Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group. The Center for New Data, a nonprofit research group, also found that in 107 of Georgia’s counties, African Americans voted at a higher rate on weekends than voters in the same counties who identify as white. 

Strong turnout among Black voters was considered key to the Democratic victories in 2020.

Our ruling

Lawrence said, "Sunday was never used before as a voting day in Georgia."

That’s not accurate. Early voting on Sundays has been allowed in Georgia for every federal and state election since 2014, although many counties have never offered it.

For the 2020 general election, several of the state’s most populous counties offered Sunday early voting, and approximately 65,000 votes were cast on Sundays statewide.

We rate Lawrence’s statement False.

RELATED: What’s in Georgia’s new voting law that lost it the All-Star Game

Our Sources

Fox News, "America’s Newsroom" April 2, 2021

Media Matters for America, "From the April 2, 2021, edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom," April 2, 2021

Georgia, S.B. 202, accessed April 6, 2021

The New York Times,"In Georgia, Republicans Take Aim at Role of Black Churches in Elections," March 25, 2021

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Sunday voting restored in Georgia bill that tightens election rules," Feb. 24, 2021

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Absentee and Sunday voting targeted in broad Georgia elections bill," Feb. 19, 2021

The Center for New Data, "Access to the Polls in Georgia: Assessment of Early Vote Wait Times in the General Election and Potential Effects of Voting Restrictions in the Runoff," Dec. 6, 2020

Rice Kinder Institute for Urban Research, "The Black Church has been getting ‘souls to the polls’ for more than 60 years," Oct. 30, 2020

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Metro counties offer weekend early in-person voting," Oct. 16, 2020

PolitiFact, "What’s in Georgia’s new voting law that lost it the All-Star Game," April 7, 2021

PolitiFact, "Charles Schumer misleads on Georgia voting legislation," March 26, 2021

PolitiFact, "Here’s why Georgia’s Republican officials are confident in their presidential election results," Jan. 5, 2020

Email interview with Walter Jones, spokesperson for the Georgia secretary of state, April 6, 2021

Email interview with Heather Sawyer, deputy communications director for Gwinnett County Government, April 6, 2021

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Fox Business reporter wrong about history of Sunday voting in Georgia

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