Georgia county looks to close polling sites, have 1 location

January 1, 2022 GMT

LINCOLNTON, Ga. (AP) — A rural Georgia county north of Augusta is moving ahead with plans to shut down all seven of its voting sites and have residents vote in person at one location, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Lincoln County Board of Elections Director Lilvender Bolton said a centralized voting center near the city of Lincolnton would give voters a single site for both early and election day voting and provide more space than small, little-used precincts. Lincolnton is about 40 miles (64km) northwest of Augusta in eastern Georgia.

“We really don’t have room in some of our facilities to do social distancing and to do the things that we need to do to keep my poll workers safe,” Bolton said.

Voting rights advocates are crying foul.

“Folks should have access to their polling locations. They should be able to vote without having to drive 30 minutes to get there,” said Cindy Battles of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, a civil rights group that has been collecting signatures for a petition to try to stop the closures.

The closures would require rural voters in the county to drive 15 miles (24 km) or more to cast a ballot. The county has no public transportation options and no taxis, Uber or Lyft, according to the newspaper.

Bolton told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution most voters usually cast their ballots during three weeks of early voting at a Lincolnton polling site.

Former President Donald Trump handily won the mostly Republican county during the 2020 election. About 28 percent of the county’s roughly 8,000 residents are Black.

The county elections board could vote on the closure plan on January 19. It comes after Georgia’s Republican-controlled Legislature abolished Lincoln’s previous elections board and gave a majority of appointments to the Republican County Commission. Lincoln is one of six counties where state lawmakers reorganized local elections boards, the newspaper said.