Tim Chitwood, Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus), March 1, 2010
A Muscogee elections board plan to consolidate some Columbus voting precincts is a scheme to keep minorities from voting in Columbus, because minority voters are now the majority.
That’s what Georgia State Conference NAACP President Edward DuBose writes in a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, which is reviewing the board’s proposed precinct consolidation plan.
DuBose says the proposal submitted to the Justice Department was never given to the local NAACP branch for review, and, “we regard the county’s failure to share this public information with the community in a timely fashion one of many points of evidence of a racially discriminatory purpose underlying the consolidation of precincts.”
The county’s board of elections, on which three of the five members are black, says it proposed cutting the number of local voting precincts from 48 to 28 to save money, to satisfy school district requests that polls be removed from schools for student safety and voter access, to adjust to a trend of more voters casting ballots before election day, and to redistribute “express polls,” which by pinpointing an individual voter’s ballot through a computer database speed the voting process.
Writes DuBose: “Although we have not seen a submission and the arguments the county is putting forward, we already know key facts that point clearly to a racial motivation for the consolidation of voting precincts. . . .”
The motivation is to reduce minority voting strength because minorities now are the majority in Columbus, DuBose writes: “White persons no longer are a majority of the registered voters in Muscogee County. The strong voter registration majority they held as recently as the 2006 elections is gone and their relative strength is shrinking. Continuing white control of the county government increasingly will depend on a white advantage in voter turnout. . . . The consolidations will bear more heavily on African-American and Latino voters who have less access to cars than white voters. It will interfere significantly with get out the vote efforts by our organization and others.”
In concluding his letter to the Justice Department, DuBose writes: “These facts, in the context of the rise of minority voting strength in Muscogee County and the white population’s recent loss of their once secure voter registration dominance, make it all too clear that the proposed consolidations are designed to reduce minority political influence and deny minority voters an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice.”