On Wednesday evening, the election board in Georgia's rural Lincoln County is set to vote on a plan to close all but one of its seven polling places ahead of 2022's midterm elections, CNN reports, and local officials, civil rights groups, and even county residents are at odds over what the change could mean for elections going forward.
"I don't like it at all, because we are such a long county," Shea Chamberlain, one of Lincoln's roughly 7,700 residents, told WJBF.com. "Now seven may be too much, but one is definitely not acceptable for especially the elderly coming all the way into town to do that."
To voting activists, the closures are part of a nationwide effort inside Republican-controlled state legislatures to enact new restrictions and expand GOP influence over elections, notes CNN. Lincoln is one of six counties in Georgia that has "disbanded or reconfigured their local election boards in the last year, thanks to recently passed bills by the Republican-controlled Georgia General Assembly."
"What's happening in Georgia with the dismantling of these county election boards is an extreme example of the national trend in Republican-controlled states to undermine local election officials," Jonathan Diaz of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center told CNN. Behind-the-scenes procedures "can really affect whether your vote matters," Diaz added.
Notably, former President Donald Trump received over 68 percent of the vote in Lincoln County in 2020, per CNN.
In the eyes of local Republican officials, however, the closures will simply eliminate unnecessary staff travel and stamp out outdated polling sites, CNN notes. "This has nothing to do with suppressing anybody's vote," said county Commission Chairman Walker Norman, who dismissed the idea that voters would have difficulty casting their ballots.
An official vote is expected to take place at 6:30 p.m., per WJBF.com.