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Georgia GOP Removes Black Democrats From Local County Election Boards

Georgia GOP Removes Black Democrats From Local County Election Boards

Expect a flurry of lawsuits after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signs newly approved redistricting maps into law. The governor has until January 1st to sign off on the new maps for the state’s congressional and General Assembly districts, which will severely impact voting rights for Black communities and other communities of color.

The Georgia restructurings are part of a national Republican effort to expand control over election administration in the wake of Trump’s false voter-fraud claims. Republican-led states such as Florida, Texas, and Arizona have enacted new curbs on voter access this year. Backers of Trump’s false stolen-election claims are running campaigns for secretary of state – the top election official – in battleground states. And some Republicans in Wisconsin are seeking to eliminate the state’s bipartisan election commission and threatening its members with prosecution.

Democrats say Republicans are trying to expand their control over election administration functions that should be nonpartisan. That could result in suppression of votes and give Republicans control over certification of results, along with recounts and audits of contested elections. For example, an elections panel in Spalding, a rural patch south of Atlanta, is just one of six county boards that Republicans have quietly reorganized in recent months through similar county-specific state legislation. The changes expanded the party’s power over choosing members of local election boards ahead of the crucial midterm Congressional elections in November 2022. Now this was an entirely different five-member board than had overseen the last election. The Democratic majority of three Black women was gone. So was the Black elections supervisor.

The unusual rash of restructurings follows the state’s passage of Senate Bill 202, which restricted ballot access statewide and allowed the Republican-controlled State Election Board to assume control of county boards it deems underperforming. The board immediately launched a performance review of the Democratic-leaning Fulton County board, which oversees part of Atlanta. The county board restructurings and statewide voting restrictions, Democrats and voting-rights groups say, represent the most sweeping changes in decades to Georgia’s electoral system. Until 2013, Georgia elections operated under federal oversight to ensure fair participation for Black voters in this once-segregated Southern state.

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Reconstituted boards in two of the six counties have already moved to restrict voting access. In addition to Spalding’s termination of Sunday voting, Lincoln County has proposed consolidating its seven precincts into one voting center, which critics say would discourage voting by people traveling from remote areas. Proponents say it would make voting more efficient and secure. The proposal was set for a vote on Thursday.

Read the full report from Reuters here.

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