Voting rights advocates are claiming victory after election officials in Georgia on Friday killed a proposal that would have closed over three-quarters of a majority-black county's polling sites.
VICTORY: Randolph County rejected the proposal to close 7 polling places, referencing overwhelming public outrage.— ACLU (@ACLU) August 24, 2018
Voting is a fundamental right that underpins all others. Public pressure works — when elected officials try to make it harder to vote, they will hear from us.
The Randolph County Board of Elections announced in a statement that none of the polling places targeted in the proposal would be closed. The ACLU had said that the plan was "what voter suppression looks like," and the Congressional Black Caucus had warned (pdf) that the proposal would have put under attack "the bedrock tenets of democracy."
The statement reads in part: "In the United States, the right to vote is sacred. It is a right that many generations of brave men and women have fought and died for. The interest and concern shown has been overwhelming, and it is an encouraging reminder that protecting the fight to vote remains a fundamental American principle."
The proposal to close seven of the county's nine polling places ahead of the November election came from consultant Mike Malone, who's previously helped "consolidate" polling places in the state. Malone has been described as an ally of Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who's now the Trump-backed Republican nominee for governor and is linked to other GOP voter suppression efforts in the state.
Malone, who was fired Wednesday, had claimed that the facilities were not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, that closures would save costs, and that voters could still engage in the voting process. Community members and advocacy groups, however, charged that the move to shutter the sites in the 60 percent black county was really about taking access to the polls away. And in a letter (pdf) the Randolph County Board of Elections and Registration groups argued that the purported justifications fell flat.
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Among the rights groups signing on to the letter was the New Georgia Project, which celebrated the vote on Twitter:
BREAKING NEWS. At 8:02 am, in the shortest meeting ever (~5 mins), the Randolph Cnty Brd of Elections voted to make no changes to precincts. WE WON.— New Georgia Project (@NewGAProject) August 24, 2018
Follow @NewGAProject on FB for updates/photos/videos throughout the day. Spread the word and share.We went #allin for #allnine. pic.twitter.com/byfiddPEcE
Cheers also came from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which had submitted the letter to the election officials.
"This is a victory for African American voters across Georgia who are too often subject to a relentless campaign of voter suppression," said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the organization.
"The defeat of this proposal also shows the power of resistance and the impact that we can have by leveraging our voices against injustice," she continued. "We're pleased that the board has seen fit to bow both to needs of the electorate and the dictates of the law and reject this poorly conceived consolidation of polling places. The right to vote is the most sacred civil right in our democracy and we stand fully prepared to defend that right throughout the midterm election cycle."