Georgia County Votes Down Measure to Close All but Two Polling Stations

Local election officials in a rural southwest Georgia county voted down a controversial measure Friday that would have closed all but two polling stations in the majority-black county.

The Randolph County Elections Board voted against the proposal to close seven of its nine precincts on a 2-0 vote in a meeting that reportedly lasted less than a minute. The black woman and white man who both voted "yes" quickly left the room after voting. They avoided the public and press and instead left a brief press statement behind, according to The New York Times and local media reports.

"In the United States, the right to vote is sacred," the statement read. "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."

Meeting Adjourned no changes to polling locations in Randolph County!!! Stay vigilant. #Gapol #BlackVotersMatter #VoterSuppression

— 🖤 Black Womxn Running My Fresh Ass Mouth🖤 (@TheWayWithAnoa) August 24, 2018

The original proposal last week unleashed a firestorm from local civil rights activists and elections officials as voters prepared to decide on their next governor: Democrat Stacey Abrams or Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp. The elections consultant, Mike Malone, claimed that seven polling locations were not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires wheelchair accessibility to all public buildings. Malone's proposal was to close the seven precincts because it would cost too much money and time to fix them before the election, even though those same polling stations were used in previous elections.

Malone was hired in April to serve as a temporary elections supervisor, according to the online outlet Politically Georgia. Randolph County Attorney Tommy Coleman fired Malone in a letter dated August 22 and publicly reported it the following day.

"He's certainly done more than enough," Coleman said. "The county is distressed because of the position they've found themselves in."

The rural county has a population of 7,000, with the majority, 61 percent, being black. The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia said one of the proposed locations to be closed had a 96 percent black population of registered voters. Closing voting precincts would have posed a transportation burden for many people in Randolph County, who see a median household income of just a little more than $30,000 per year and a 30 percent poverty rate, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In a letter to the Randolph County Board of Elections last week, ACLU Georgia threatened legal action, saying it believed the county was attempting to suppress black voters.

"If you cut your hand, you don't chop off your arm. You heal the cut that's on your hand," Sean Young, the legal director of ACLU Georgia, said at the time. "People who don't have a car, they're going to have to walk three and a half hours to get to the closest polling place if this proposal goes through."