Georgia county scraps plan to close most polling places

ATLANTA (AP) — Election officials in a majority black county in rural south Georgia took less than a minute today to scrap a proposal to eliminate most of the local polling places, after the plan drew criticism from all over the country.

Concern about the proposal to close seven of the county's nine voting locations was "overwhelming," and is "an encouraging reminder that protecting the right to vote remains a fundamental American principle," the elections board in Randolph County said in a statement.

Voting and civil rights groups applauded the decision but said the episode demonstrates the need to restore Voting Rights Act protections that were tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.

The elections board, made up of a black woman and a white man, took about 30 seconds to vote down the proposal, county attorney Tommy Coleman said.

After the plan to close the polling places got national news coverage, county officials were inundated with angry emails from all over the country in what Coleman called "a tsunami of attention."

Critics questioned the timing of the changes during the hotly contested governor's race. Georgia's top elections official, Republican Brian Kemp, is running against Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is trying to become Georgia's first black governor. Both had urged the county to reject the changes.

An independent consultant recommended the consolidation, saying the seven polling places in question don't comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The county fired the consultant in a letter sent Wednesday.

The seven polling places had all been used for the May primary and the primary runoff in July, and Coleman said officials were aware of ADA compliance issues.

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