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.”

***

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

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work