On Thursday night, the two-person board of elections for Georgia’s Randolph County voted down a proposal to close seven out of the county’s nine polling places. Randolph County is 61 percent black; the proposal was drafted by a consultant who supports Georgia’s Republican nominee for governor.
“In the United States, the right to vote is sacred,” the Randolph County Board of Elections said in a statement provided to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “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.”
The southwest Georgia county had come under fire for considering the proposal after the consultant, Mike Malone, recommended that the polling places should be closed because they weren’t compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. But as HuffPost’s Sam Levine reported earlier this week, the county records that would have actually backed up this claim simply did not exist.
On July 2, Malone donated $250 to Brian Kemp, the Trump-endorsed Republican nominee for governor. Kemp is Georgia’s current secretary of state, a role through which he oversees the state’s elections. Malone also reportedly cited Kemp’s work in precinct “consolidation” in justifying the move to close the polling places. After the backlash, Kemp’s office said it had nothing to do with the proposal and urged the county to reject it.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported earlier in the day on Thursday that Malone had been fired the previous day by the county attorney, Tommy Coleman. “He’s certainly done more than enough,” Coleman told the AJC. “The county is distressed because of the position they’ve found themselves in.”
As ThinkProgress noted earlier this week, the push was part of a larger trend where the Department of Justice’s Disability Rights Section is targeting places with large numbers of people of color for polling place closures, effectively using alleged discrimination against people with disabilities to justify making it harder for people of color to cast their ballots:
The jurisdictions the Justice Department has targeted are predominantly non-white. Under President Trump, the department has settled at least five enforcement actions in counties across the country where polling locations do not meet the stringent requirements of the ADA. Four of the five locations targeted by the Justice Department — Chicago, Ill.; Chesapeake, Va.; Coconino County, Ariz.; and Richland County, S.C. — have significant minority populations.
Kemp will face Democrat Stacey Abrams in the November general election. If elected, Abrams will become both the first woman and African-American to serve as Georgia’s governor.