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Prepared Remarks of Sean J. Young, Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia
ATLANTA – Tonight, Sean J. Young, Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia, will deliver the following remarks at the Randolph County Board of Elections & Registration public hearing concerning the proposal to close the seven out of nine polling places in the county on the eve of the November general elections.
On Tuesday, the ACLU of Georgia sent a letter to the Randolph County Board of Elections & Registration demanding it reject the proposal because it is discriminatory, unjustifiable, and violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Sean J. Young, Legal Director
ACLU of Georgia
August 16, 2018
Randolph County Board of Elections & Registration
Randolph County Government Building
93 Front Street, Cuthbert, Georgia
"Members of the Randolph County Board of Elections & Registration, thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight. My name is Sean Young, and I am the Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia, an organization dedicated to protecting the sacred, constitutional right to vote for all Georgians. We are here to express our strong opposition to the discriminatory proposal to eliminate 7 out of 9 polling places in Randolph County on the eve of the November elections. This proposal is reminiscent of Georgia’s ugly, discriminatory past, and that is where it needs to stay.
"Members of the board, if you care about our democracy and prefer to avoid unnecessary legal liability, we recommend that you reject this proposal.
"I want to make three points today.
"First, this proposal will have a discriminatory impact on African Americans and likely violates the federal Voting Rights Act.As you are well aware, Randolph County is a Black Belt county that is 60% African-American—twice the percentage as that of the State of Georgia. Eliminating 7 out of 9 polling places in this county guarantees lower turnout among African Americans in this upcoming November election.
"The federal Voting Rights Act is a federal law that many of Georgia’s own civil rights leaders fought hard to pass. It was passed to eliminate legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevent African Americans from exercising the constitutional right to vote guaranteed under the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"Second, eliminating all the rural polling places surrounding Cuthbert and Shellman will make it impossible for rural voters without vehicles to vote in-person on Election Day.They will have to walk three-and-a-half hoursto get to a polling place. And Randolph County, which is disproportionately Black, has over three times as many people without vehicles as compared to the State of Georgia, and double the poverty rate. Making it impossible to vote in-person isunconstitutional.
"Third, this proposal fails the commonsense test. Apparently all 9 polling places were necessary for the primary election in May and the run-off election last month in July. Yet, this proposal assumes that only 2 polling places are necessary for the upcoming November elections, which is expected to have a much higher turnout. Why?
"If there’s some innocent explanation for this, we have yet to hear it. Last Thursday, the ACLU of Georgia filed an Open Records Request with you demanding the release of documents explaining the reasons this proposal was on the table. Yesterday, we received a response: but none of the documents explains why this proposal would be necessary.
"The documents the board sent us consisted of an email exchange between Todd Black, the Randolph County Director of Registration & Elections, to Gina Wright, the State Executive Director of the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office in Atlanta,asking that they draw up a map eliminating 7 out of 9 polling places. That’s it.
"So, either there are reasons behind this proposal that someone is trying to hide, or this email exchange really constitutes all the thought that went into this proposal, which is apparently very little.
"With such an obvious discriminatory impact and no reasonable, lawful explanation given for the proposal, it’s almost as if the proposal is trying to limit on purpose African-American voter turnout. The evidence is there. And if that’s what’s happening, the board’s legal troubles are deeper than imagined.
"Members of the Randolph County Board of Elections & Registration, we urge you to stand up for democracy and to reject this unnecessary and discriminatory proposal. We urge you to protect the right of all Randolph voters to exercise their sacred, constitutional right to vote in every election.