After two long years of circulating petitions and community organizing, county officials in Jeff Davis County, Georgia, have decided to reopen a polling site in the town of Hazlehurst. The polling station, a little white clapboard building in a dirt lot between an office supply warehouse and a graveyard, had been servicing the predominantly black area for decades until state officials closed it in 2017. This closure came just before Georgia’s gubernatorial election between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp.
From NBC News:
Julie Houk, managing counsel for election protection for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said polling site closures can create tremendous barriers for voters, especially those with low incomes or no personal vehicle, and they are too often carried out in minority communities.
“We’ve seen that happen in Georgia time and time again where it’s the minority voter community who are more disadvantaged by these poll closures than anyone else, and that raises serious concerns,” Houk said.
The alarm was raised. Hazlehurst residents joined together with civil rights and voting rights advocates and pressured Jeff Davis County officials to reopen the polling sight, knowing that they couldn’t rely on the federal government to intervene.
This comes as a big triumph for voters throughout Georgia. According to NBC News, a recent report from civil rights group Leadership Conference Education Fund found 1,688 polling place closures between 2012 and 2018…The report cites data gathered by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that found 214 Georgia precincts closed in that six-year period — about 8% of the state’s polling places.