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March 8, 2019

ATLANTA – Today, the ACLU of Georgia sent a letter asking the Lowndes County Board of Elections to reopen a polling location on the Valdosta State University (VSU) campus so that its students may exercise their sacred, constitutional right to vote.  Specifically, the ACLU of Georgia asked the board to work with VSU students and staff to develop a polling location plan that can be approved as soon as possible before the November 2019 elections, preferably by the April 2019 Board of Elections meeting.

The VSU polling location, last operational in 2009, should be reopened. Keeping the VSU polling location closed likely has a disproportionate impact on people of color, which could expose the county to legal liability under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. 
 
Any past polling location closures in Lowndes County may have been tainted by the influence of Mike Malone, a now widely-discredited “consultant” who was recently fired by Randolph County for his improper closure recommendations. Randolph County is located in the state’s Black Belt region. Malone claims that he once recommended polling place closures in Lowndes County. 
 
Fifty-two percent (52%) of the VSU student body are students of color, and sixty-one percent (61%) of students residing on campus are also students of color. The closest polling location for VSU students is nearly two miles away and in excess of a 30-minute walk (one way, or over an hour round trip) off campus. That location is essentially unreachable for the many students without cars. No one should have to walk an hour just to exercise their right to cast their ballot.
 
“The students of Valdosta State University are eager to participate in our democracy,” stated Sean J. Young, Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “We look forward to working with the county board of elections to ensure that all students are able to exercise their sacred right to vote.”
 
“By establishing a polling site within the Student Union on Valdosta State University’s campus, students’ participation within our nation’s democracy will be enhanced for the betterment not only of the Valdosta-Lowndes County community but also our great state and nation, as well,” Tyler Tucker, a sophomore at Valdosta State University.
 

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