Fallout continues for Randolph County election officials

From left, state Reps. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, Gerald Greene, R-Cuthbert, Darrel Ealum, D-Albany, and Winfred Dukes, D-Albany, work on the House floor during the 2018 Legislative session. Greene, who represents Randolph County in the House, has urged the county Elections Board not to consider closing seven of the county’s nine voting precincts. (Special Photo)

CUTHBERT — As the Randolph County polling station controversy lurches toward a Friday meeting of the county’s Election Board, the fallout from the two-person board’s consideration of closing seven of the county’s nine polling stations has not abated.

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, who represents Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Randolph County as well as a significant portion of Middle and southwest Georgia, released the following statement:

“I am outraged by the proposal to close seven of the nine polling stations in Randolph County and will do everything in my power to stop this act of voter suppression. The right to vote is fundamental to our system of government. This action would certainly work to disenfranchise voters in Randolph County, particularly African-American voters. It is a disgrace to our democratic process, and it is unacceptable. I will be reaching out today to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Georgia Secretary of State to express my strong opposition to these proposed voting station closures.”

The issue has attracted attention nationwide, with the American Civil Liberties Union and NAACP recently leaping into the fray. The DOJ has thus far been silent on the issue.

The Randolph Elections Board currently comprises just two members: Scott Peavy and Michele Graham.

The fracas began with an election consultant’s suggestion that most of the stations were not compliant with the American With Disabilities Act in regard to equal access. The board took no action on the proposal at last Thursday’s meeting. So the issue remains just a proposal.

“There is no doubt that some of the polling stations are not ADA compliant,” Randolph County Attorney Tommy Coleman said. “Some of these precincts have fewer than 100 registered voters. Many people at these precincts vote early or by absentee ballot.”

State Rep. Gerald Green, R-Cuthbert, whose District 151 includes Randolph County, chimed in on Tuesday.

“As I stated at the meeting last Thursday, I vehemently oppose this proposal to close seven polling sites, and I call on the Board of Elections to withdraw this proposal,” Greene said. “During my time in office, I have sought to vigorously protect every citizen’s right to vote. Closing seven of the nine polling locations in Randolph County would disenfranchise many of my constituents and restrict them from exercising their constitutional right to vote.

“I hope our county elections officials will do the right thing and keep these polling sites open for the November elections.”

While the Elections Board is considering closing a majority of polling places for the November election, those same precincts were open during this year’s primary and runoff contests.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams has so far remained low-key on the issue.

“Every Georgian in every county deserves to have their voice represented at the voting booth and in our government,” Abrams, a former Democratic House minority leader and founder of the New Georgia Project voting rights group, said.

Her Republican opponent, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, is also playing his cards close to the vest.

“Although state law gives localities broad authority in setting precinct boundaries and polling locations, we strongly urged local officials to abandon this effort and focus on preparing for a secure, accessible and fair election for voters this November,” Kemp said.

Since the issue remains at this time just a proposal, the board can take no action Friday, and the county’s nine precincts will remain open. If one of the two members makes a motion to implement the consultant’s plan, that motion would still have to be seconded. If the motion is seconded it is likely to pass, otherwise somebody would have to vote against their own motion.

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