Georgia County Decides Against Suppressing Black Vote Just This Once, Since People Noticed
After the ACLU and other civil rights organizations called attention to a plan to shut down all but two polling places in Randolph County, Georgia, the county's two-person elections board voted today not to do that after all. Because heavens, access to the polls sure is important and who on earth would even suggest such a terrible idea, other than the very same elections board two weeks ago.
The meeting was remarkably quick and efficient, considering all the build-up. The county government building was packed by locals, and the meeting was of course attended by representatives of the ACLU, which had threatened to sue if the board went ahead with its plan to close seven of the majority-black county's nine polling places. Then, as CNN reports, it was over in under a minute:
Board of elections member Michele Graham quickly offered a motion that the board make no changes to the county's voting precincts.
"There is a motion, and I second it," said J. Scott Peavy, rocking back and forth in his chair. "And the vote shall be -- all in favor, say 'aye.'"
"Aye," Graham said.
"Aye," Peavy said. "This meeting is adjourned."
The board didn't take any questions or give any comments, but it did release a statement saying how wonderful voting is -- "sacred" in fact -- and thanking all the troublemakers who butted in after a local activist noticed a tiny legal notice about the proposal in the local paper and raised a fuss about it:
The interest and concern shown has been overwhelming, and it is an encouraging reminder that protecting the right to vote remains a fundamental American principle.
Sadly, there was no unmasking scene in which Graham or Peavy grumbled they'd have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for those darn kids and their lawyers. The vote came after the county abruptly fired Mike Malone, the "consultant" it had hired to offer advice on polling place "consolidation." Malone had insisted at a meeting of the election board last week that the seven polling places simply had to be shut down because they weren't accessible to voters with disabilities. Malone had also claimed at the meeting that "consolidation" of polling places "has come highly recommended by the secretary of state," Brian Kemp, who happens to be the Republican candidate for governor and who also has a terrible reputation for voter suppression measures, paired with a cavalier attitude toward the security of Georgia's election computer systems. The New York Times reviews all that in some detail if you feel your blood pressure needs a little goosing today.
Kemp, for what it's worth, made a show of urging Randolph County not to change its polling places, and denies Malone was doing his bidding, although Malone has said Kemp sent him out to recommend polling place "consolidation" opportunities in as many as 10 counties.
Sounds to us like Kemp has seen the light and become a genuine defender of voting for all. That, or the Randolph County fuckery was too obvious and too close to the general election, once it was noticed. He's running against Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is wonderful and could become Georgia's first African-American governor. Oh, yes, and Abrams's campaign is counting on high turnout among black voters, and Kemp's previous efforts to restrict voting have, not surprisingly, been among the top campaign issues this year.
In any case, hooray for the voters of Randoph County, who can now vote easily on election day. And hooray for the ACLU of Georgia and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which have been keeping an eye out for similar attempts to ratfuck the Georgia elections. Don't be too surprised if there are other places where Republicans think they can pull this crap without it being noticed.
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