Letter to Quitman Board of Elections and Registration Warning that Closing 50% Polling Places Likely to Harm Black Voters
On April 27, 2021, the ACLU of Georgia sent a letter to the Quitman County Board of Registrars warning that its proposal to close half of its polling places will likely harm Black voters potentially violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.
Eliminating a polling location that serves the eastern half of the county will prevent rural voters living around Morris without transportation from voting in-person on Election Day. Morris is approximately 13 miles away from Georgetown, where the last remaining polling location in the county would be located. It would take over four hours to walk from Morris to Georgetown. Because Quitman County has little to no public transportation options, a voter who wants to vote in person but does not have a car would face significant, and potentially insurmountable, hurdles to exercising their right to vote.
These transportation burdens would also fall more heavily on Black voters. A plurality of Quitman County residents, who are disproportionately Black, have either no car or only one car per household.
On Thursday, May 6, 2021, the board held a public meeting. Local residents attended to express their opposition to the poll closure.
Rahul Garabadu, ACLU of Georgia Voting Rights Attorney, also attended and provided the affiliate's position regarding the proposal to close the Morris precinct which would reduce the county's polling locations by 50%.
ACLU of Georgia’s position
Quitman County Board of Registrars’ proposal to close Morris polling location is wrong for three reasons.
Shutting down the precinct would burden Morris residents who don’t have access to a car. Citizens who want to vote in person would face an unacceptable choice: walk four hours to vote or don’t vote at all.
Accessibility concerns that the Board has raised regarding Morris precinct can easily be fixed without shutting down the precinct.
The Board’s concerns about its ability to pay three poll workers can also be addressed easily. The ACLU of Georgia stands ready to assist the County in finding three volunteers to serve as poll workers on Election Day, including from neighboring Randolph County, where the ACLU of Georgia has built relationships.
At that meeting, the board tabled its decision regarding whether to close the Morris precinct.
Four days later -- on Monday, May 10, 2021, an ACLU of Georgia supporter informed Mr. Garabadu that the board published in the local paper a notice of a new meeting to be held three days later on Thursday, May 13, 2021, to vote on whether to close the Morris precinct. [See image below.]
Local residents and ACLU of Georgia Voting rights Attorney Rahul Garabadu again attended the board meeting and expressed opposition to the poll closure. The ACLU of Georgia communications director also attended and live streamed the meeting on Facebook.
In a victory for the citizens of Quitman County, the board voted 4-1 to keep open the Morris precinct.
Below are videos of three Quitman County citizens who attended the meetings to oppose the Morris precinct closure. Listen as they share their views on the importance to keep the precinct open for citizens to use to cast their ballots in elections. The Facebook Live video is also posted below.
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