A predominantly black county in rural Georgia is facing a nationwide backlash over plans to close about 75 percent of its voting locations ahead of the November election. County officials say the locations are inaccessible to those with disabilities; critics say the closures will disenfranchise black voters ahead of an election in which a black candidate is running for governor for the first time. The Randolph County elections board is considering a proposal to eliminate seven of nine polling places in the county. The seven precincts in question don’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, county officials and an independent consultant say. Longtime Randolph County attorney Tommy Coleman acknowledged in a phone interview with The Associated Press that the timing of the move could appear strange. The polling places were used during the May 22 primary election and July 24 primary runoff, and officials have known about ADA compliance problems in the county for at least six years.
Civil rights groups have publicly opposed the plan, saying it will cause confusion and make it difficult for rural voters without transportation to get to the polls. Census figures show the county’s population is more than 61 percent black, double the statewide percentage.
The circumstances leave “a reasonable observer to wonder whether the real motive behind these closures is indeed to make it harder for African Americans to cast a ballot,” American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia attorney Sean Young said in a letter sent to county officials Aug. 14.
The county elections board is scheduled to vote Friday on the plan, which Coleman said was proposed by an outside consultant recommended by the elections director in the office of Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Kemp, a Republican, is running for governor in November against Stacey Abrams, a Democrat and the former House minority leader who is seeking to become the first black, female governor in the country.
Full Article: Backlash erupts over poll-closing plan in black county.