Georgia Metropolis Below Fireplace For Shifting Polling Location To Police Station

Written by on October 9, 2019

Officers in a single Georgia metropolis are intimidating voters by transferring the polling location for an upcoming municipal election to the native police station, civil rights teams stated this week. 

The town council in Jonesboro, Georgia, which is about 18 miles south of Atlanta, determined to maneuver the polling location to the police station in September as a result of the previous location, a firehouse museum, was not usable due to development. However in two letters this week, civil rights teams within the state stated the change to a police station, reasonably than a extra impartial location, would make individuals scared to come back out and solid their ballots. The transfer, the teams stated, might violate sections of the Voting Rights Act that prohibit voter intimidation and discriminatory election practices. 

“Forcing voters to solid their ballots beneath the steely gaze of armed legislation enforcement officers all however quantities to government-sponsored voter intimidation,” the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a letter despatched Tuesday to metropolis and county officers. “On this nation’s not-so-distant previous, legislation enforcement officers harassed, arrested, and beat Black individuals for making an attempt to vote.”

“Forcing voters to solid their ballots beneath the steely gaze of armed legislation enforcement officers all however quantities to government-sponsored voter intimidation.” ACLU of Georgia

Selecting the police station as a polling location is especially alarming due to the connection between legislation enforcement and African Individuals, who make up greater than 60% of the Jonesboro inhabitants, a coalition of civil rights teams wrote in a separate letter on Monday.

They famous that town’s police chief resigned final 12 months amid controversy over the division’s remedy of a Black Lives Matter protester. In addition they identified the county had an ordinance that inflicted a hefty positive for a trivial offense: permitting legislation enforcement to positive individuals as much as $480 for sagging pants. Even individuals who have unpaid parking tickets may very well be dissuaded from displaying up on the police station to vote, argued Julie Houk, an legal professional with the Legal professionals’ Committee for Civil Rights Below Legislation, one of many teams that signed the letter. 

The teams, which additionally included The New Georgia Mission, The Georgia Coalition for the Folks’s Agenda, and the state chapter of the NAACP, requested town to rescind its determination to place the polling place in a police station. 

The controversy underscores how voting rights teams are scrutinizing polling place modifications and closures in Georgia and elsewhere, arguing they’re a type of voter suppression. Since 2012, greater than 1,688 polling locations have been closed in locations with a historical past of voting discrimination, in response to a report by the Management Convention on Civil and Human Rights. In some instances, officers determine to shut polling places with out giving cautious evaluation or justification for the closures. These actions may very well be a stealthy method to discourage would-be voters and affect election outcomes. 

Earlier than 2013, the Voting Rights Act mandated that locations like Georgia with a historical past of discrimination couldn’t shut or change a polling location with out some oversight from the federal authorities. If officers wished to make a voting change, they needed to present the federal authorities it might not be discriminatory. In 2013, the Supreme Court docket struck down the supply, releasing officers to make modifications with out having to indicate the modifications aren’t discriminatory. 

Since 2013, officials have been free to close or change polling locations with little oversight.

Since 2013, officers have been free to shut or change polling places with little oversight.

Throughout a Sept. three metropolis council assembly, Jonesboro metropolis council members adopted the proposal to modify the polling station to a police station with out a lot dialogue. Once they opened up the ground for a public listening to, there was nobody current from the general public to talk about it. The town council is almost all-white.

Jonesboro metropolis supervisor Ricky Clark, Jr. stated officers selected the polling places as a result of they believed it might be essentially the most handy for voters. 

“The Chambers of the Police Division the place the polling place can be situated is the precise location the place all Council Conferences of the Metropolis of Jonesboro happen, which makes it essentially the most comfy and acquainted location for residents of the Metropolis of Jonesboro who can be coming to vote,” Clark wrote in an e-mail. He added that the police division offered enough parking and house, one thing that Metropolis Corridor ― a location that can be used for early voting ― couldn’t.

Clarke didn’t reply to inquiries about whether or not town had thought of polling locations apart from the police station. 

“Authorities officers have been saying because the Jim Crow period that once they transfer a polling place it’s due to comfort,” stated Sean Younger, the authorized director of the ACLU of Georgia. “For hundreds of years that has been a pretext for discriminatory voter intimidation.”

It’s not unparalleled to position a polling location in a police station, stated Amber McReynolds, the previous prime election official in Denver, Colorado. However she added election officers ought to select the place to place the polling places in session with the group.

Even when voters are accustomed to the police station, going to vote is totally different than attending a metropolis council assembly, stated Houk. She added that Jonesboro is the county seat and there have been different authorities buildings, faculties and church buildings the place officers might have put the polling location.

“Particularly within the south, many individuals of colour have robust recollections of using legislation enforcement in suppression the Black vote, main up particularly to when the Voting Rights Act was adopted and since then,” she stated. “A metropolis council assembly doesn’t have the identical kind of standing, for my part, as say a polling place, the place individuals are stepping into there to find out whether or not these elected officers must be continued of their roles.

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