by Lauren Victoria Burke NNPA Newswire Contributor
Less than 80 days from the time a Black female nominee is to appear on the ballot for Governor of Georgia for the first time in the state’s history, election officials have begun to turn to familiar tactics of voter suppression.
Officials on Georgia’s Randolph County Board of Elections are planning to eliminate seven out of nine voting precincts prior to Election Day. Randolph County is 60 percent Black.
Many voters would be forced to drive or walk over ten miles to vote.
Randolph County supported Hillary Clinton with 55 percent of the vote in 2016. One precinct of the nine that may be closed is nearly 100 percent Black. The Randolph County Board of Elections will soon hold a meeting to make a final decision on the poll closures.
In less that 80 days on November 6, former Georgia State Legislator Stacey Abrams will be on the ballot as the Democratic nominee for Governor. She will be the first African American female nominee for Governor in Georgia’s history.
This month, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on behalf of the New Georgia Project, the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, sent a pre-suit-demand letter to the Randolph County Board of Elections Board’s decision. The Georgia NAACP is also pushing hard against the move.
NAACP Georgia State President, Phyllis Blake, scrambled to attend the Randolph County Board of Elections hearing in which the decision was first discussed. The two-person board arbitrarily proposed closing the polling places during a discussion on August 16.
“We know how various tactics for voter suppression have been embedded by opponents to real democracy, especially since the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, and I was surprised that folks had the audacity to try this in my state,” said NAACP Georgia State President Phyllis Blake in an August 22 statement.
Randolph County Democratic Party Chair Bobby Jenkins, said there was “no indication” a poll closing decision was in the works. Abrams’ Republican opponent for Governor, Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, issued a statement urging Randolph County officials to “abandon this effort.”
On August 23, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) wrote the Randolph County Board.
“Unfortunately, this proposal is just the latest foray into the deeply problematic, well-coordinated playbook of voter suppression spearheaded by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and his ally Mike Malone. The former has played an instrumental role in canceling tens of thousands of voter registrations and purging even more existing voters from the rolls by leveraging the same controversial racially biased technology Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach made infamous for targeting Black voters. The latter was allegedly deployed by Kemp to provide a series of recommendations for poll closures across the state,” wrote CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Georgia Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) and others.
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and writer for NNPA as well as a political analyst and communications strategist. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke