Majority-black Georgia county rejects plan to close 7 of its 9 polling places

Kira Lerner Political Reporter, Think Progress

The election board in majority-black Randolph County, Georgia voted Friday morning to reject a proposal to close seven of its nine polling locations before the November election.

The vote comes shortly after the county announced it had fired the elections consultant, Mike Malone, who conceived of the plan. Malone was initially hired to temporarily fill the role of an elections supervisor, but he undertook efforts to close all but two of the county’s polling precincts instead.

The racial implications of the plan generated immense backlash. The county is over 61 percent black, and one of the polling locations that would be shuttered serves a precinct where more than 95 percent of voters are African American. Before the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, the closures would most likely have been blocked by the Department of Justice.

Voting advocates, including representatives from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, attended Friday’s voting, vowing to file a lawsuit if the county approved the plan.

“This is a victory for African American voters across Georgia who are too often subject to a relentless campaign of voter suppression,” Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee, said in a statement. “The defeat of this proposal also shows the power of resistance and the impact that we can have by leveraging our voices against injustice.”

The county issued a statement crediting the public for pointing out the issues at the root of the plan.

“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 statement said, according to a CNN reporter.

Malone was attempting to justify the closures using federal disability law, claiming the seven polling places were not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Voting advocates told ThinkProgress it was “diabolical” to use one civil rights law in an attempt to infringe another, the Voting Rights Act.

Voter suppression efforts in Georgia are not rare. Earlier this year, GOP lawmakers in the state similarly attempted to eliminate Sunday voting in Atlanta, a move that would disproportionately hurt black voters.

Andrea Young, executive director of the state’s ACLU, told ThinkProgress that closing polls is even more disruptive than other forms of voter suppression, like cutting hours — and that the effects are felt especially hard in rural Georgia, where many voters fought for the passage of the Voting Rights Act during the Civil Rights Era.

“What we see in Georgia is that every tool in the voter suppression toolkit is in use,” Young said. “I’m not surprised to see a new theory for voter suppression.”

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Reposted from Think Progress

Kira Lerner is a Political Reporter for ThinkProgress. She previously worked as a reporter covering litigation and policy for the legal newswire Law360. She has also worked as an investigative journalist with the Chicago Innocence Project where she helped develop evidence that led to the exoneration of a wrongfully convicted man from Illinois prison. A native of the Washington, D.C. area, Kira earned her bachelor's degree at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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