A predominately Black county in rural southwest Georgia could see seven of its nine polling places closed, sparking outrage and allegations of racial discrimination among locals.
According to HuffPost, election officials in Randolph County have defended the decision, claiming the polling locations they plan to close aren’t sufficiently accessible to folks with disabilities. Rather than fix the locations to make them comply with American Disabilities Act (ADA) standards, however, officials want to shut them down completely.
“If a government building isn’t ADA compliant, the solution is to make them ADA compliant,” Sean Young, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, said at a Thursday meeting on the issue. If you cut your hand, you don’t chop off your arm, you heal the wound.”
“They have had decades to fix these issues and have had elections in these polling places,” Young continued. “… The better question is why haven’t these issues been fixed? And why, instead of fixing them, are you shutting them down?”
In a letter to the Randolph County Board of Elections, the ACLU questioned the motive of the proposed changes in the county, which is more than 60 percent Black with roughly 30 percent of residents living below the poverty line. The humans rights organization argued that closing more than half of the county’s polling places would force low-income residents to travel over three hours by foot just to cast a ballot, as there’s no public transportation to take them to the remaining polling two places.
The group has since threatened to sue the county, saying the proposed changes are discriminatory against African-American voters.
“The racial impact of eliminating over 75 percent of the polling places in a Black Belt county on the eve of an election is obvious,” the ACLU wrote, noting that the voter make-up of one of the polling places set to be closed is 96 percent Black. ” … The timing of your decision is also suspicious. These are the exact same polling places used in the primaries and primary run-off earlier this year. It makes no sense to suddenly reduce the number of polling locations for this November’s high-turnout general election.”
ACLU officials also pointed to the fact that Stacey Abrams, the first Black female nominee for governor, will be on the ballot this fall. Abrams will face off against Republican candidate Brian Kemp, whom many have likened to President Donald Trump.
“This, combined with the fact that this race involves a first-time African-American nominee
for governor, further casts doubts about your motives,” they wrote.
At Thursday’s meeting, residents also expressed skepticism about the county’s proposed changes.
“The bottom line is, it’s about race, that’s the problem that it’s creating,” said one attendee, according to WALB.
“Get our act together, with ACLU and file a lawsuit,” another attendee chimed in.
The Board of Elections will have the final say so in the matter.
Watch more in the video below.