After a week of ferocious pushback

However. Randolph County, Georgia, is not after all going to close 7 of its 9 polling places.

After a week of ferocious pushback — including two packed town-hall meetings in which residents berated local elections officials, as well as warning letters, threats of lawsuits by civil rights groups and national media coverage — county officials fired the consultant who came up with the plan.

Then on Friday morning, the Randolph County Board of Elections voted down the proposal to close seven of its nine polling locations, saying no changes would be made. The meeting of the two-member board lasted no more than five minutes.

“In the United States, the right to vote is sacred,” the board said in a statement, adding that displays of interest and concern have been “overwhelming and . . . an encouraging reminder that protecting the right to vote remains a fundamental American principle.” It said the board’s only interest was in “making sure elections in Randolph County are fair and efficient.”

Activists and residents applauded the action and said they would continue to meet and share information to make sure their voting rights were not eroded.

What they forgot to kill went on to organize.

For resident Sandra Willis, who lives in Cuthbert, the county seat, the controversy stirred up a painful but proud moment in her family’s history. During the 1950s, her aunt, Charlie Will Thornton, worked with voting rights activists in Randolph County despite threats from officials that she could lose her teaching job in neighboring Terrell County.

When Thornton continued her activism, she not only was fired from her job, but she could not find work in any of the surrounding counties. She ended up working briefly as a maid for a local family before finally landing another teaching job in Meriwether County, about 100 miles north of Randolph County. Thornton worked in Meriwether for 30 years, eventually becoming a principal. After more than three decades, she was able to get hired in her hometown and retired from teaching in Randolph County.

Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.

Activists also said it was a reminder of the need for Congress to restore portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was severely weakened by a 2013 Supreme Court decision. The ruling dropped a requirement that states with a history of voter suppression first seek Justice Department approval before making changes to voting laws and procedures.

Well this Congress isn’t going to do that but the next one might.

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