The Slatest

ACLU Protests Plan to Close Polling Locations in Predominantly Black, Rural Georgia County

Black voters line up to vote outside Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in the presidential election November 4, 2008 in Birmingham, Alabama.
Black voters line up to vote outside Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in the presidential election on Nov. 4, 2008 in Birmingham, Alabama. Mario Tama/Getty Images

The elections board of rural Randolph County in southwest Georgia is considering a proposal that would close seven of the majority-black county’s nine polling locations, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. Two-thirds of Randolph County’s some 7,000 residents are black, and the county has a median household income of $30,358 that amounts to just 60 percent of the state median. Nearly one-third of the county’s residents live below the poverty line, and nearly one-quarter don’t have a vehicle in an area where public transportation is virtually nonexistent. What does that all add up to? “There is strong evidence that this was done with intent to make it harder for African Americans,” Sean Young, an attorney with ACLU of Georgia, told the Associated Press.

The closing of three-quarters of the polling places in the county would have a staggering effect on access to vote, according to the ACLU, as it would mean an additional 10-mile journey to the two remaining polling places. “If you don’t have a car and you want to vote in-person, you have to walk three-and-a-half hours,” Young said. One of the polls up for closure is Cuthbert Middle School, where nearly 97 percent of voters are black.

The ACLU said there has been no public reason given for what appears to be a targeted attempt at voter suppression, but the top of the ticket of Georgia’s state races could provide a clue. Along with federal and local races on the ballot in November, the gubernatorial race in Georgia has the chance to make history—with Democrat Stacey Abrams in the running to become the first black female governor of any state in American history when she takes on a Trump-style conservative in Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp. All nine polling locations were operational during this year’s primary and Republican gubernatorial runoff.