Outrage across Georgia — and across the country — as a Georgia county board of elections tries to close 7 of its 9 precincts in a rural county that is majority African-American.Atlanta Bureau Chief Ashley Bridges was the first to tell you about this story, and is following up the county’s defense that they’re doing it to help people with disabilities.
The question seems to be, why close 7 of the 9 voting precincts in a 60 percent African American County where many people don’t have cars right before Georgia’s heated November election–including precincts that were used in May’s primary and July’s runoff?
“There’s not a coherent reason, there’s just a defensiveness, like ‘we’re not trying to suppress voters, we promise,’” said Sean Young, Legal Director ACLU of Georgia.
But Michael Malone, consultant to Randolph County said, “Folks I will tell you right now, your polling places are not ADA compliant. Period.”
Malone, a paid consultant from outside Randolph County, said he has a clear reason to make things equally accessible to people with disabilities. He said it’s happening now because he discovered it, but records show he’s been on Randolph County’s payroll since at least April and the ACLU says Randolph County has known about the violations since 2012 when they were sued and settled over them with the US Government.
“They have known for at least 6 years. … So nothing they’re saying is holding water,” said Young.
And, the parking lots at some of the sites they say break code for having grass and no walkway are the same as one of the sites he says should stay open.
Attorneys say the ADA is designed to make voting places accessible for everyone including disabled people — not shutting them down.
“There’s nothing in the ADA that says you just eliminate, that’s not only illegal, it’s cruel.”
There are waivers, alternatives, churches–but Malone wasn’t interested.
Malone touted himself as being recommended by Secretary of State Brian Kemp, and he proposed the closures. For some people, they would mean walking as long as 3 and a half hours to a polling place. A County elections supervisor said that people could call and pay a medical transport service to drive them and that -that- is public transportation because people in the public can call it. The crowd laughed at him and voting rights activists disagree:
“He said it was not his job to look for alternatives, so it begs question, what is your job?” asked Nse Ufot of the New Georgia Project.
We wanted to know too so we filed records requests for the contract Malone has with Randolph County — on paper he was tasked with finding a supervisor not closing the precincts. Malone says voters who couldn’t reach polls should just vote by mail, boasting in a slide of his work in these 10 other Georgia counties. What do the counties have in common?
“The vast majority of those counties, they’re disproportionately black.”
We will continue investigating this story for voters across Georgia.