A Georgia county’s board of elections on Friday voted down a proposal to shutter seven of its nine polling sites over concerns that doing so would disenfranchise the area’s majority-black population.
Local station WALB reported that this decision was made seconds into a Friday morning meeting.
The proposal was originally made by independent elections consultant Michael Malone, who was hired to help the rural county save costs. It drew national criticism given the likely challenges it would impose on the county’s mostly black voters, who would need to travel long distances to get to the polls on Election Day. Several civil rights groups threatened to sue if the changes were approved.
The county was unable to produce documents supporting its claims that the polling sites were inaccessible to disabled people, and Malone was fired Thursday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In a statement, the board said that the proposal was only under consideration because of a “decline in population and consequently, a decline in the county tax base.”
Calling the right to vote “sacred,” the board said it decided not to close the polling sites thanks to the public outcry over the recommendation.
“The interest and concern shown has been overwhelming, and it is an encouraging reminder that protecting the right to vote remains a fundamental American principle,” the statement read.