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Civil Rights Organizations Used Social Explorer Tools to Alleviate Potential Voter Suppression

WEDNESDAY, DEC 09, 2020

A consortium of civil rights organizations used Social Explorer’s award-winning online mapping tools to successfully argue against the closure of more than half of a suburban Atlanta county’s early voting sites in the state’s Jan. 5 special election to fill two U.S. Senate seats.

The consortium, led by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, had argued that reducing the number of Cobb County early voting sites from the 11 that were available in the Nov. 3 general election to five would have made casting ballots especially difficult for the county’s Black and Latino residents.

Maps generated with Social Explorer show “the elimination of advance voting locations will discourage or prevent many of Cobb County’s Black and Latinx voters from participating in the runoff election,” the consortium wrote Cobb County officials in a Dec. 7 report.

County officials initially said they didn’t have enough staff to operate all 11 locations but would consider adding more check-in stations to the existing sites to ensure that voters didn’t spend an unnecessarily long time waiting. The county announced on Dec. 9, however, that it would add one early voting site and two more during the third week of early voting, including a site that would serve a significant number of Black and Latino voters.

Michael Pernick, an NAACP attorney, said the changes are “certainly an improvement over the county’s initial plan and helps ensure that all eligible voters can freely and safely exercise their constitutional right to vote.”

Cobb County, which has more than 760,000 residents and is the third-largest county in the state, is located northwest of downtown Atlanta. In the Nov. 3 election, President-elect Joe Biden defeated Republican incumbent Donald Trump by a 56-42 percent margin in the county. In the Senate races, Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff won an 11 percentage point margin over incumbent Sen. David Perdue, and Democrat Raphael Warnock won 38 percent of the county’s vote, compared to 25 percent for incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler. The outcome of the races will either preserve the Republican majority in the Senate or tip the balance of power to Democrats.

    

Cobb County demographics. Click here to explore further.

Almost 48 percent of Cobb residents are minorities, according to the Census Bureau’s 2014-18 American Community Survey. Under the initial proposal, heavily Black neighborhoods in the southern half of the county would have had one early voting polling place open for the runoff, compared to the four that were available for the general election. Some voters in Black and Latino neighborhoods would have needed to make a three-hour round-trip via public transportation to cast early ballots at the nearest open location.

Even with 11 early voting locations, the consortium noted that some residents waited as long as 10 hours to cast ballots in the Nov. 3 election. Closing all six early voting sites would have been “highly likely to create confusion and frustration among voters, many of whom will seek to vote at the same advance voting location they used in the general election. No other major metro county in Georgia has plans to drastically reduce the number of advance voting locations available to voters for the runoff election,” consortium members said.

“We’re pleased that our tools are being used to ensure that our election process – the bedrock of our democracy – is open to all Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity,” said Andrew Beveridge, president and co-founder of Social Explorer. 

Other consortium members include All Voting is Local Georgia; Georgia NAACP; the SPLC Action Fund; and Black Voters Matter Fund.


Author: Frank Bass

 

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