F-It, I’m Not Going: City Council In Georgia Moves Only Voting Location To Police Department

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
Voter Suppression
Illustration by Autumn Keiko

A suburb of Atlanta is once again showing why representation matters – and it’s not because of good deeds. The City Council of Jonesboro, Ga. voted last month to move the city’s only polling location to the police department, The Root reported.

This is the same city that banned sagging pants in 2011 and has an alleged history of police brutality, according to residents, who sent a letter opposing the new voting location. In it they called the move “clear voter suppression.”

“While we recognize that many outstanding law enforcement officers risk their lives every day … many Black voters are well aware of the role law enforcement officers played in suppressing the Black vote in the South — particularly in the time leading up to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” Julie Houk, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told the AJC.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC), civil rights groups joined residents in objecting to the new location. Among them are Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, the New Georgia Project, the Clayton County Branch NAACP and The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia, AJC reported.

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Though Jonesboro is predominately Black, the city council only has one Black member. City Manager Ricky Clark said the new precinct is “the most comfortable and familiar location for residents of the city of Jonesboro who will be coming to vote.”

His argument is contrary to many resident’s views given Black and other people of color’s negative (and deadly) interactions with police. It makes it highly likely some of them will not show up to vote if the location isn’t changed.

Jonesboro is also being gentrified at a rapid rate as residents are priced out with rising costs of living. Kristen Clarke is the executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law. She said the precinct’s location at the police department could adversely impact Black voters showing up to weigh in on important issues.

“Needless to say, this move is one that could have a chilling effect on African American voters given the city’s recent history … The police department is far from the kind of neutral location where all people would feel free to vote,” Clarke said.