Nearly one thousand polling places across the United States have been close in the five years since the Supreme Court eliminated crucial parts of the Voting Rights Act, according to the Tribune News Service, and southern black communities have been hit the hardest.
> The trend continues: This year alone, 10 counties with large black populations in Georgia closed polling spots after a white elections consultant recommended that they do so to save money. When the consultant suggested a similar move in Randolph County, pushback was enough to keep its nine polling places open.
> But the closures come amid a tightening of voter ID laws in many states that critics view as an effort to make it harder for blacks and other minorities to vote – and, in Georgia specifically, the high-profile gubernatorial bid by a black woman.
> The ballot in November features Stacey Abrams, a Democrat trying to become the first black woman elected governor in the United States, versus Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state who has led efforts in Georgia to purge voter rolls, slash early voting and close polling places.
The Leadership Conference Education Fund — “the research arm of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of 200 civil rights groups” — found in 2016 that within just three years of the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling, local officials shut down 868 polling places across the U.S.
> “We are now seeing the fallout of that ruling,” said Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
> Polling places have often been used as political tools to shape the outcome of elections. Officials can reduce the voter participation of certain groups by eliminating polling places, and increase participation in other groups by placing precincts in key neighborhoods.
> “You can basically lessen the turnout of people who disagree with your position,” said Abraham Rutchick, a psychology professor at California State University Northridge, who has studied the impact of polling placement.