A Georgia town is sending police to black residents’ homes to challenge their voting rights
Jim Crow laws have been off the books for years, but that hasn’t stopped individual states and cities from coming up with new ways to depress minority voter turnout.
Last week, for instance, a U.S. appeals court struck down a North Carolina voter ID law that it said was specifically designed to lower turnout among black voters. And now the New York Times is reporting that a town in Georgia is using its police department to challenge the rights of its black residents to vote.
Specifically, the Times reports that the Hancock County Board of Elections and Registration has been “systematically questioning the registrations of more than 180” black residents in Sparta, Georgia “by dispatching deputies with summonses commanding them to appear in person to prove their residence or lose their voting rights.”
The 180 black residents make up roughly one fifth of Sparta’s total registered voters, the Times notes.
A new lawsuit is alleging that the Hancock County Board of Elections enacted this policy to help white candidates win more elections in Sparta, although county attorney Barry Fleming told the Times that the board’s policies have nothing to do with race.
“The allegations that people were denied the right to vote are the opposite of the truth,” said Fleming, who claimed these policies were meant to restore order to the voting process after a period of supposed corruption. “This is probably more about politics and power than race.”
Even if only a small portion of people who were targeted in the probe were purged from the voter rolls, the mere fact that police officers were coming to residents’ homes to challenge their voting rights could still suppress turnout.
“A lot of those people that was challenged probably didn’t vote, even though they weren’t proven to be wrong,” Marion Warren, a Sparta elections official, told the Times. “People just do not understand why a sheriff is coming to their house to bring them a subpoena, especially if they haven’t committed any crime.”