A local elections board in rural Georgia has voted down a plan to close seven polling locations after public criticism that shuttering voting centers would disproportionately impact black voters.
The Randolph County Board of Elections voted Friday to keep all nine polling locations open on Election Day.
Critics of the plan said it was meant to hinder turnout in a county where almost 60 percent of the residents are African-American. Randolph County gave Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE 55 percent of the vote in 2016, one of just 10 counties — all majority-black — in southeast Georgia that voted for the Democrat over President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE.
The proposal to consolidate precincts was floated by Mike Malone, a local political consultant who had donated to Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp’s (R) campaign earlier this year. The county had hired Malone to consult on local elections management, though it fired him earlier this week.
In a statement released after the vote, the Board of Elections said public criticism had spurred them to reverse the plan. The 2-0 vote to scrap it and keep all nine voting sites open took less than a minute on Friday morning.
“In the United States, the right to vote is sacred,” the board said in a statement. “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.”
Both Kemp and his Democratic opponent, former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D), had criticized the plan. Kemp, who is Georgia’s secretary of State, does not have the authority to dictate local precinct locations to county boards of elections, which operate independently of his office.
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Abrams and Kemp have generated national attention for a race that pits an up-and-coming faction of Democratic Georgia voters against a Republican who casts himself in the mold of President Trump.
A survey conducted just after a July 25 Republican runoff, which Kemp won easily over Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R), showed Abrams leading Kemp by a slim 2-point margin, well within the poll’s margin of error.