County election officials in Georgia have closed almost 8% of their polling places since 2012 according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Closures took place in 214 precincts and one-third of the counties across the state.
Of the counties that have closed voting locations, 39 have poverty rates that are higher than the state average. Thirty have significant African-American populations, making up at least 25 percent of residents.
Those voters can request a non-excuse absentee ballot to vote in the November 6th election, but they must do so at their county elections office by close of business on Friday [deadline details].
How did this happen?
In 2013, the US Supreme Court ruled that states with a history of voting rights discrimination were no longer subject to federal oversight under the Voting Rights Act.
In Georgia, “[l]oss of voting access frequently happens in counties with low incomes, small populations and substantial minority populations.”
These counties would benefit from having one vote by mail system rather than having to support both vote by mail (absentee) and physical polling places supported by computerized voting machines (which must be stored and protected in-between elections and monitored by trained staff (often volunteers).
By November 2016, at least 868 polling places in seven southern states had closed, a 16% reduction. About 43% of the counties included in the study had reduced voting locations.
- Alabama: 66 closures; the limited study showed that 67% had closed polls.
- Arizona: 212 closures; almost every county reduced polling places.
- Louisiana: 103 closures; 61% of parishes reduced polling places.
- Mississippi: 44 closures; 34% of the 59 counties surveyed had closed polling places.
- North Carolina: 27 closures; 12 of 40 counties covered by the Voting Rights Act have closed polling places “even after significant opposition fromminority communities and advocates.”
- South Carolina: 12 closures; the state implemented the most transparent and rigorous procedure for closing polling locations of the states studied.
- Texas: 403 closures; the limited study showed that 53% had reduced voting locations.
More current data on precinct closures has not been published.
Featured image, Flickr CC.