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People with Disabilities are Political Pawns in Georgia

Closing Georgia Polling Stations Won’t Help Anyone

A voter uses an electronic voting machine to cast a ballot during the Georgia primary runoff elections in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on Tuesday, July 24, 2018. © 2018 Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A proposed move by the elections board of a majority-African American county in Georgia to close seven of its nine polling sites, citing non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has triggered an uproar amid allegations of voter suppression.

Here’s the bottom line: Closing these polling stations doesn’t help voters with disabilities. Rather than closing polling stations for lack of accessibility, the county should update these public facilities to ensure that they are accessible. These facilities, such as a firehouse, should be accessible in any case.

Critics suspect that these moves are really just a thinly-veiled effort at minority voter suppression. A 2013 Supreme Court decision gutting key provisions of the Voting Rights Act also plays into the controversy. In the past, this county would have needed permission from the federal government to close these polling stations to ensure no one planned to deliberately suppress minority voters. No longer.

For the upcoming November election, disability advocates themselves have called for practical solutions, such as the option of curbside voting, to ensure that all voters, including people with disabilities, can participate in the political process.

During a community meeting last week, elections consultant Mike Malone, who is spearheading the effort to monitor ADA compliance in Georgia, said he was “not hired to find alternatives.”

The Randolph County Elections Board is scheduled to vote on this matter tomorrow. Let’s hope they reject this terrible idea and make sure all of the County’s voters have every opportunity to cast their votes.

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