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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.

Georgia is on the brink of electing the nation’s first black woman governor, Stacey Abrams, but officials in one majority-black county may close all but two polling locations. The ACLU alleges“strong evidence that this was done with intent to make it harder for African Americans [to vote].”

Randolph County, where 61 percent of the population is black, may close seven of nine, or 75 percent, of the county’s polling locations in November, according to the Associated Press. All nine were open and used in a recent primary election and the Republican runoff election.

One of the locations on the chopping block is a middle school where more than 95 percent of the voters are black.

County officials claim the seven locations they may close are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the county does not have time to fix them before the November 6 elections.

In a meeting with county officials, ACLU attorney Sean Young said, “We heard a lot about the ADA tonight and that’s a very important federal law, but another law that is just as important is the Voting Rights Act.”

In a rural southwest county with limited public transportation, where more than 1 in 5 residents don’t own a car, fewer polling places could be a substantial burden on voters.

“If you don’t have a car and you want to vote in-person, you have to walk three-and-a-half hours,” Young told the AP.

In another interview, Young said the plan would “all but guarantee lower turnout” in November.

The plan comes to light just weeks after a poll showed Abrams, the Democratic nominee, ahead by a couple points against Republican nominee Brian Kemp.

Voter suppression tactics targeting minorities is sadly nothing new in America. North Carolina faced a flurry of lawsuits over voter suppression laws so outrageous a federal court said they were drafted to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

In Ohio, the state reduced early voting methods most often used by black voters.

Many states, including Georgia, engage in “voter purges,” where registered voters are removed from the rolls if they have not voted in the past two or four years, a practice many civil rights advocates say disproportionately impacts minority voters.

The Trump administration went so far as to create an “Election Integrity Commission,” reportedly set up to look at voter fraud issues, which was led by notorious huckster and voter suppression guru Kris Kobach. The commission ended in abject failure.

To combat the onslaught of attacks on voting rights, several nonprofit organizations dedicated to protecting the right to vote have been created.

Access Democracy, a project of The Leadership Conference Education Fund, works at the local level to “pinpoint a county or city’s specific election administration problems, and identify solutions that fit that community’s needs and its budget.”

National organizations like Let America Vote seek to bring more attention to the issue of voting rights.

In Randolph County, the ACLU sent a letter to the county demanding all the polling locations remain open in November. After a meeting of county officials, the ACLU said they would take the matter to court if a resolution could not be found, according to WTOC.

Published with permission of The American Independent.