Randolph County defends voting precinct closures, claims to help people with disabilities

Georgia News

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.

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? Precincts that were used in May’s primary and July’s runoff.

“It’s kind of a mix of a defensiveness, like ‘we’re not trying to suppress voters, we promise!'” says Sean Young, Legal Director ACLU of Georgia.

“Folks I will tell you right now, your polling places are not ADA compliant. Period,” says Michael Malone, Consultant to Randolph County.

Michael Malone, a paid consultant from outside Randolph County, says he has a clear reason…to make things equally accessible to people with disabilities.  

He says it’s happening now because he discovered it, but I produced records showing 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 that there are ADA compliance issues, and yet it’s right now, right before the November elections that they’re choosing to address this issue. The timing is really suspicious, nothing they’re saying is holding water,” says Young. 

The parking lots at some of the sites he says break code, for example 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,”  says Young.

“There are churches, there are elementary schools, there are city and county buildings,” says Nse Ufot, New Georgia Project.

Malone wasn’t interested 

“He said it was not his job to look for alternative locations, so it begs question: what is your job?” says Ufot.

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 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,” says Young. 

And now have had their polls closed — or, consolidated.  

We will continue investigating this story for voters across Georgia.

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