Georgia election officials, who are under scrutiny for trying to shut down 75 percent of poll sites in a majority Black county, may have been caught lying.
Randolph County, which is 60 percent African American, doesn’t have any documentation to support its reason for closing seven of its nine polling places, the Huffington Post reported Wednesday, after obtaining a response to a public records request.
The county’s election officials had claimed that scores of residents would have to use alternative polling places, miles away, because the seven sites are not wheelchair accessible and thus violate federal disabilities laws.
This admission “proves that their alleged concern about [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliance is a sham,” said Sean Young, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, adding “This is not about ADA compliance, because if it were, they would have produced a study or analysis of what they believe are ADA violations and what can be done about them.”
Opponents believe the claim about handicap accessibility is a pretext to veil underlying racism and to keep the governor’s office under Republican control. Georgia’s Black voters have the opportunity to elect Stacey Abrams, who could become the nation’s first female African-American governor.
“We believe these threats to shut down polling sites violate both the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told NewsOne.
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court rolled back a portion of the Voting Rights Act that required several jurisdictions, mainly in the Deep South, to obtain federal permission before changing how residents are allowed to vote. Since then, civil rights groups have been fighting to stem the steady erosion of voting rights.
To that end, Lawyers’ Committee submitted a pre-suit demand letter Monday to the Randolph County Board of Elections, objecting to the proposed closures.
Randolph County has a two-member election board that was expected to vote Friday on whether to shutter the polling stations. If the plan goes through, many of the rural county’s Black voters, who don’t have reliable transportation, would have to travel up to 10 miles to cast a ballot elsewhere.