A chorus of voting rights activists blended their voices to shut down a voter suppression attempt against African Americans in rural Randolph County, Georgia.
“We were at the meeting with court papers in hand and we were prepared to file suit on behalf of People’s Agenda, Georgia NAACP and New Georgia Project and African American voters in the county if the proposal went forward,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told NewsOne.
Election officials voted at a public hearing on Friday not to close seven of the nine voting location in the predominantly African-American county.
The officials came under fire from civil rights organizations and residents for considering the proposal, claiming that the seven sites were not wheelchair accessible. Closing the sites would have forced scores of residents to use alternative polling places, miles away, for the November general election.
Opponents believed the claim about handicap accessibility was 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.
“This is a victory for African-American voters across Georgia who are too often subject to a relentless campaign of voter suppression,” Clarke said. “The defeat of this proposal also shows the power of resistance and the impact that we can have by leveraging our voices against injustice.”
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 on Aug. 20 to the Randolph County Board of Elections, objecting to the proposed closures.
“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,” Clarke stated.