Tag: Randolph County

Georgia ACLU and Voting Rights Activists Move to Block Plan to Close Two-Thirds of Randolph County’s Polling Places

Georgia ACLU Staff (photo via aclu.org)

by Vanessa Williams, WashingtonPost via sandiegouniontribune.com

Voting rights activists in Georgia say they will launch a petition drive in an effort to collect enough signatures of registered voters to block a proposal to close more than two-thirds of polling precincts in a predominantly black county ahead of this fall’s general election.

The plan to shutter the voting sites in Randolph County, a rural community about 2½ hours south of Atlanta, has been drawn dozens of local residents and progressive groups to two public hearings in recent days. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a formal protest with the county’s board of elections.

Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, which oversees elections operations throughout the state, has issued a statement urging Randolph County officials to “abandon this effort.” Kemp also is the Republican nominee in one of the country’s most-watched gubernatorial contests. The Democratic nominee, Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator, is seeking to become the nation’s first black female governor.

The two-member county election board – a third member stepped down recently – has scheduled a vote for Friday on the proposal to shutter seven of the county’s nine polling places, citing problems including facilities in disrepair or inaccessible to persons with disabilities. But some activists are suspicious of the board’s motives, noting that Randolph County is 60 percent black and many residents have low incomes. The county, which covers 431 square miles, has no public transportation system.

All nine of the polling places were used for the May primaries and less than a month ago for statewide run-offs, in which Kemp, helped by an endorsement from President Donald Trump, beat Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle for the GOP nomination.

Local news outlets reported heated discussions at meetings on Thursday and Friday, with residents and activists alleging the move was aimed at suppressing turnout in the county, in which more than 55 percent of the voters are black and have backed Democratic candidates in statewide elections.

County officials and a consultant hired by local officials said the closures were necessary because the sites were not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act and there was not time to fix them before the Nov. 6 general election. They also suggested that affected residents could vote by absentee ballot.

“You don’t solve problems of accessibility for people with disabilities by reducing access for people without disabilities,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the Georgia ACLU, which wrote a letter to the board stating that the closures would be a violation of the Voting Rights Act because it would have a negative effect on African-American voters. The group noted that African-Americans make up more than 96 percent of the voters at one of the polling places slated for closure.

Unsure if the board will be persuaded by the arguments for keeping the polling places open, some activists will try to stop the plan by using a state law that forbids the closure of voting sites if 20 percent of the registered voters in the affected precinct object to the change. The county currently has just over 4,000 registered voters.

Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project, a voter registration and education group, said activists will begin collecting signatures Sunday, spreading the word at morning church services.

“We want to see to it that the hundreds of students we registered at Andrew College and the people we’ve registered in Randolph are able to exercise their sacred, fundamental right to vote,” Ufot said. The goal is to submit the petition before the board’s scheduled Friday vote.

A similar petition drive overturned a decision two years ago by elections officials in Macon-Bibb County to relocate a polling place from a school to the sheriff’s office.

“These polling place closures are part of a stark pattern that we are seeing across Georgia whereby officials are working to make it harder for African Americans and other minorities to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The more communities mobilize to turn out the vote, the harsher the voter suppression efforts undertaken by officials. We are prepared to use every tool in our arsenal to ensure that African American voters are able to have meaningful access to the polls this election cycle.”

Read more: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/us-politics/ct-georgia-voting-rights-polling-places-20180818-story.html#

‘Invisible Man’ Ban Rescinded by North Carolina School Board After Community Backlash

"Invisible Man" author Ralph Ellison and his wife, Fanny, at their home in New York in 1972, 20 years after the novel's publication. (Nancy Crampton / Knopf)
“Invisible Man” author Ralph Ellison and his wife, Fanny, at their home in New York in 1972, 20 years after the novel’s publication. (Nancy Crampton / Knopf)

ASHEBORO, N.C. — High school students in Randolph County once again can get “Invisible Man,” Ralph Ellison’s classic 1952 novel of alienation and racial discrimination, at school libraries.  Nine days after the county school board banned the book, it reversed itself at a hastily called special meeting Wednesday night, voting 6 to 1 to return the novel to school bookshelves. Several board members apologized for the ban and said they had been chastened by an outpouring of angry objections from county residents.

The backlash caught board members by surprise. Several said they had been inundated with emails begging them to reconsider. Others conceded that they had acted rashly and should have consulted with the superintendent and rank-and-file teachers in the 16,000-student district, about 85 miles northeast of Charlotte.  Several said the public reaction had opened their eyes to viewpoints they had not considered and broadened their outlook on the importance of all types of literature.

“We may have been hammered on this and we may have made a mistake, but at least we’re big enough to admit it,’’ said board member Gary Cook, who had voted for the ban but reversed himself Wednesday.  The meeting, in a packed boardroom, lasted only 45 minutes. The vote to rescind the ban took a few seconds, with only board member Gary Mason dissenting. He called the book “not appropriate for young teenagers.”

The board’s abrupt reversal came in the middle of the annual Banned Books Week sponsored nationally by the American Library Assn., which celebrates the freedom to read. The association and the Kids’ Right to Read Project wrote the school board condemning the ban and asking that it be reversed.

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