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Georgia county to close 7 of 9 voting precincts, civil rights attorney calls it 'voter suppression'

RANDOLPH COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) - A Georgia County is attempting to force the closure of 7 of its 9 voting precincts before November's general election.  That county is also 60 percent Black which has raised the questions...is the push for those closures racially or politically motivated? 

"All this gibberish about suppressing voters."

You read that correctly-- that's elections consultant Michael Malone, the man who has crafted a plan to close 7 of Randolph County's 9 precincts suddenly, before the general election -- referring to voter suppression as "gibberish."

"That's the very definition of voter suppression. When people's commutes go from 1 mile from their home to 10 miles, for a person without transportation it might as well be 100 miles," says Nse Ufot of New Georgia Project.

Malone says that the Randolph County Board of Elections plans to close the 7 precincts because they are not ADA compliant and pose health hazards. 

Activists and attorneys disagree.

"I think their motive is to shrink the electorate. To make it more difficult for people to vote," says Ufot.

"It's going to all but guarantee lower turnout from African American communities.  These are elections officials.  They know exactly what effect this will have,"  says Sean Young, Legal Director ACLU of Georgia.

Plans for those closures were not made before the primary election in May, or before the hotly contested Republican runoff for Governor in July.  And, that information came as part of Malone's own investigation.

"So, we have to ask why they are suddenly closing them down for the much higher turnout of the general election," says Young.

Malone says that those voters can vote via absentee ballot.

"Voters have 45 days prior to election to apply," says Malone.

When asked, Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office issued a statement urging Randolph County to ditch the plan, but those at the meeting say Malone boasted of his being highly recommended BY KEMP.  Malone also is documented as making one, and only one Georgia campaign contribution since 2006...that donation was made July 2nd to Kemp for Governor.

Voters at the meeting say they feel like their voices and votes are being suppressed. 

There is another meeting happening right now in Randolph County about these closures.  Officials called them "courtesy meetings" before moving forward with plans to close the precincts next Friday. 

We will continue to follow this story.
 



[Original Story Below]

One Georgia county is considering closing 7 of its 9 voting precincts before November's election.

Randolph County is in southwest Georgia, about an hour south of Columbus.  

The director of elections there announced in the newspaper plans to only keep two precincts open, even though all of them were used for the primary and July runoff.

One civil rights attorney calls it voter suppression, and says it appears racially motivated.

"We're talking about a county that is 60 percent black. It's in the black belt and has twice the rate of African American population compared to the rest of the state.  When you cut out 75% of those polling places, it's going to have an affect on African Americans and all but guarantee lower turnout," says Sena Young, Legal Director at the ACLU of Georgia.

One of the precincts the board plans to close actually has the MOST registered voters in Randolph County, and 95 percent of them are black.

There are meetings scheduled for Thursday night and Friday about the plan.

CONTINUING COVERAGE HERE


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