Georgia Kills Racist Plan to Eliminate Polling Places in Black County Amid Backlash Voters and civil rights advocates in Randolph County, Georgia stood up to a blatant voter suppression scheme, and won.

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Officials in Randolph County, Georgia have scrapped a plan to close 7 of the county’s 9 polling places, amid local anger, a massive petition drive, nationwide scrutiny, and threats from the Georgia ACLU to file suit. The local election board meeting to vote down the proposal lasted less than 60 seconds.

As an added bonus, county elections consultant Mike Malone, who first proposed the closures, has been fired.

Randolph County is 61 percent African-American, and one of the polling sites proposed for closure served an area that was 97 percent black. Furthermore, nearly a quarter of residents do not own a car. Had the closures been approved, thousands of minority voters might have had to walk for up to 3 hours to get to their polling place.

Election overseers had claimed the closures were because the polling places were not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. But a public records request revealed that the county did not have a single piece of data to back up its claim that the affected sites were causing any problems for disabled people.

Black voters and civil rights groups have a darker theory for the reason behind the proposal: that it was an underhanded ploy to undermine Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who is running in a competitive, high-profile race to be the first African-American woman governor in history.

Abrams’ Republican opponent is Brian Kemp, who also happens to be the chief elections official in Georgia — and according to the Washington Post, Kemp was the one who included Malone on a list of recommended consultants for local election boards. Malone has also financially supported Kemp’s campaign, and said at a meeting discussing the proposal that Kemp had urged him to find ways to consolidate polling places, although he later retracted this statement.

Kemp, for his part, denies any involvement in the proposed polling closures or in recommending Malone as a consultant for Randolph County, and claims that he opposed the closures from the start. But this was not an isolated or unique incident — Republicans have been aggressively curtailing hundreds of polling places for years, spurred along by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to throw out a key portion of the Voting Rights Act.

The defeat of the Randolph County closures plan is an important victory for voting rights, and a key case of how activist pressure is able to undo some of the GOP’s ugliest schemes to suppress black voters. It follows last month’s voting rights victories in Indiana, where a lawsuit by Common Cause and the NAACP resulted in a consent decree  ordering Republicans to allow multiple early voting sites in heavily urban Marion County for the first time in ten years; and in Florida, where a federal judge struck down a law prohibiting early voting sites on college campuses.

By Matthew Chapman / AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Georgia Lawmakers Punish Delta Air Lines Over NRA Feud

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Republican lawmakers in Georgia made good on a threat to eliminate a proposed tax break for Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, after the carrier declined to reverse a decision to cut ties with the National Rifle Association.

Earlier this week, Delta — the state’s largest private employer, with 33,000 workers statewide — was among numerous companies to announce that it would end discounts for NRA members in the wake of the mass shooting that killed 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., high school.

Ignoring warnings that taking on Delta could harm the state’s pro-business image, the GOP-controlled House, which had earlier approved a larger tax bill containing the exemption, voted 135-24 on Thursday for a new version stripped of the provision. Meanwhile, some experts have raised First Amendment concerns over the legislature’s punitive move.

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Georgia Lt. Gov. To Delta: No NRA Discounts, No Corporate Welfare Is this a blow against free speech or a win for free markets?

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Casey Cagle—Georgia’s lieutenant governor and Republican gubernatorial candidate—says he will not support any more corporate welfare for Delta Airlines until the company starts giving National Rifle Association members discounts again.

“I will kill any tax legislation that benefits Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with NRA,” Cagle said on Twitter today. “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.”

The Atlanta-headquartered Delta had previously extended a group travel discount of 2 to 10 percent to NRA members traveling to the organization’s national conference to be held in Dallas in May.

On Saturday, Delta said via Twitter that it would be ending these discounts and asking the NRA to remove any information about Delta and its travel programs from its website.

Several corporations, including United Airlines and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, have likewise pulled special discounts they have given to NRA members in response to pressure from activists demanding companies cut ties with the organization following its adamant pro–Second Amendment stance in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting.

The revocation of these discounts provoked a bevy of criticism from right-wing media. Breitbart has spread calls for boycotts of Enterprise, while Fox News writer Todd Starnes livetweeted his call with Delta customer service to see if he, as an NRA member, could still fly with the airline.

Currently the Georgia state legislature is considering a large tax cut bill that includes an exemption for jet fuel from state and local taxes. The provision is reported to save all airlines $50 million, $40 million of which would accrue to Delta.

The Georgia House of Representatives easily passed the bill last week. The measure is now being considered by the state Senate, where Cagle—by virtue of his position as lieutenant governor—serves as president. Should the 56-member state Senate have a tie on the tax cuts, Cagle would get to cast the deciding vote.

The lieutenant governor’s threat has provoked a range of reactions on Twitter. Some have offered criticism of Cagle for threatening to punish a company through the withholding of state benefits solely because of their political expression.

Others have spotted a free-market silver lining. Business Insider‘s Josh Barro tweeted:

Libertarians would not be remiss for being split on the matter. One the one hand, a politician refusing to back a special tax break because of his pro–Second Amendment views sounds pretty good. On the other hand, making opposition to corporate welfare contingent on whether businesses themselves hand out special deals to favored interest groups sounds less appealing.

By Christian Britschgi/reason click link to read the tweets

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Handel Defeats Ossoff In Georgia House Race, Dealing Blow To Democrats

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House Republicans are now 4-0 in contested special elections since PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP won the presidency.

Read that about 4 times and you’ll know how much the Democrats suck!

Image: Curtis Compton, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff Tuesday in a special election to fill a Georgia congressional seat, dashing Democrats’ hopes of flipping a House district in order to build momentum ahead of the 2018 midterms.

Polling had been showing a tight race, with several recent surveys showing Ossoff just ahead of Handel. However, a poll released Monday evening had the two candidates neck-and neck. As of around 11 p.m. Tuesday night, incomplete returns showed Handel leading Ossoff by a little under six points.

Democrats had hoped that they could harness the anti-Trump energy in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, located in the Atlanta suburbs and brimming with well-educated voters, to take over what had for several decades been a solidly Republican seat. Though now-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price handily won re-election there in November, President Donald Trump only won the district by one point, signaling that the seat could be up for grabs. But Handel’s win suggests Republicans can outrun Trump’s low approval ratings.

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Dems Already Counting Chickens in Georgia May Find GOP Foxes Too Quick

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The recent special election in Kansas for Mike Pompeo’s old House seat — Pompeo’s now ensconced in Langley, where he has the Augean Stables ahead of him — had Democrats excited about their chances right up to election day… and beyond. Even though they lost by nearly seven points, they were quick to claim a “near-victory,” on the grounds that their guy lost by a lesser margin than any of Pompeo’s previous tomato cans.

Image: AP Photo/Alex Sanz

Now we have another special election, this one in Georgia, to replace Tom Price, who’s moved on to the Department of Health and Human Services.

And once again, the Progressive donkeys are all hot and bothered by their chances, given that their man is one of only five Democrats in the first  round against eleven GOP wannabes.

So they’ve poured $8.5 million into the race in the hopes not simply of blackening Donald Trump’s eye, but perhaps snatching the seat as well — all candidate Jon Ossoff needs to do is grab 50 percent of the vote-plus-one and he wins the seat outright.

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A growing conflict over voting rights is playing out in Georgia, where the presidential race is tightening

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A growing conflict over voting rights and ballot access is playing out in Georgia, where civil rights activists are trading accusations with Republican elected officials and where the stakes have risen considerably with the state’s new status as a closely watched battleground.

Activists said this month that as many as 100,000 Georgia ­voter-registration applications have not been processed. One of the state’s largest counties offered only one early-voting site, prompting hours-long waits for many people at the polls last week. And the state’s top election official has refused to extend ­voter-registration deadlines in counties hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew.

These developments have prompted harsh criticism from voting rights activists. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit to extend registration for six counties affected by the hurricane. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who oversees elections, responded by taking to Twitter to rail against “left-wing activists,” whom he accused of trying to disrupt the election.

Fresh polls in the Peach State show a tightening presidential race between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, who has complained that the election is “rigged” against him nationwide. But voting rights advocates in Georgia say Republican state and local election officials are undermining the fairness of the vote by passing laws and adopting procedures that deter minorities and young people, groups that typically vote Democratic.

The clashes in Georgia echo battles in recent months, some still ongoing, in other states across the country, including North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.

“Georgia is ground zero, if you will, when it comes to voter suppression and voting discrimination that we’re seeing this election season,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

During the past several months, advocates in Georgia have challenged laws and procedures enacted by Kemp that they said would make it harder for people to register to vote and would unnecessarily kick people off the voting rolls. In one county, advocates say they stopped an effort by local officials to move a polling precinct that served predominantly black voters from a gymnasium to the sheriff’s office.

The New Georgia Project and other progressive groups submitted about 250,000 new voter-registration applications by the state’s Oct. 11 deadline. But they learned last week that about half of those would-be voters had not been added to the rolls, based on data from Catalist, a Washington firm that collects and analyzes voter data for progressive organizations.

Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project, said the backlog happened partly because questionable procedures delayed the processing of applications and partly because the system was overwhelmed by the number of new applications. She said the group has launched an effort to contact more than 100,000 applicants and help them make sure they can vote by Nov. 8.

Early voting began in Georgia last week, overwhelming the one early-voting precinct in Gwinnett County, in suburban Atlanta. News outlets reported that some people waited up to three hours to vote. On Thursday, officials said they would add more machines to the single site and open two more sites Monday, five days earlier than originally planned.

Kemp said on Twitter that as of Monday morning, 578,539 ballots had been cast early in the state.

His spokeswoman declined to provide data on the number of outstanding voter-registration applications and said it is up to individual counties to process the forms.

Kemp has used Twitter to criticize the ACLU, which had asked a court to reopen voter registration for residents of Chatham County, which includes Savannah, and five other counties that were hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew. On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled against the ACLU.

In a series of tweets, Kemp decried what he said was a “stunt by the ACLU to manipulate the system & squander state, county resources days before the election.”

“We can’t sit back and watch the radical left create chaos in our state. Stand with me and protect Georgia elections!” he wrote.

“The very act of Brian Kemp peddling these bizarre conspiracy theories about the ‘radical left’ creating ‘chaos’ is itself a dangerous assault on our country’s democratic traditions,” said DuBose Porter, chairman of the state’s Democratic Party. “Just a few days ago, Kemp dismissed Donald Trump’s assertions of a ‘rigged’ election but is now falling into the same pattern of paranoia that works to undermine confidence in the system.”

Kemp, in statements during the past year, has dismissed allegations that his office’s policies are aimed at disenfranchising voters of color. In a statement last month, he touted voters’ ability to register or update their information online using a smartphone app.

“As Georgia’s chief elections official, I want to ensure every Georgian has the opportunity to register to vote and allow their voice to be heard at the polls,” he said.

Advocates describe a more frustrating experience for tens of thousands of would-be voters.

In mid-September, the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda sued Kemp’s office over a policy that required information on voter-registration applications to exactly match data in state driver’s license or Social Security records. A simple clerical error, such as a misplaced hyphen or transposed letters or numbers, could trigger a mismatch and result in an application being rejected. Voters would have 40 days to correct the discrepancies but would not be told specifically what needed to be fixed.

The lawsuit noted that out of 34,874 people whose applications were canceled between July 2013 and July 2016, 64 percent were black, compared with 14 percent who were white.

Clarke, of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the groups spent a year negotiating with Kemp’s office and thought they had an agreement to make changes to the policy. But then the secretary of state said the changes would not affect this year’s election.

Days before a hearing on an emergency injunction to block the practice, the state attorney general’s office sent a letter to the court saying the matching requirement would be put on hold and applicants rejected since October 2014 would be allowed to vote in this year’s election.

Clarke said that Georgia “is unique in that a lot of the suppression we’re seeing is at the local level, with elected officials in communities that are smaller and more rural, and are not under the microscope in the same way that state elections officials are.”

One example took place in ­Macon-Bibb County in central Georgia, where local officials this year decided to temporarily move a polling precinct with a high percentage of black voters from a community gymnasium that was undergoing renovations to the sheriff’s office.

“When we complained, we were told if people weren’t criminals, they shouldn’t have a problem voting inside of a police station,” Ufot said in a recent interview.

Unable to sway officials, Ufot said, activists went door to door and collected enough signatures from residents to block the relocation. The precinct was instead moved to a facility owned by a church.

The Peach State has been reliably red in the past five presidential elections — Bill Clinton was the last Democrat to win Georgia, in 1992. But the state could be competitive this year, with Trump holding a smaller lead over Clinton than Republican presidential candidates’ previous winning margins. The contest in Georgia is close because Trump is struggling to win over college-educated white voters. Boosting turnout among voters of color, who are more likely to vote for Democrats, could tilt the state in Clinton’s favor.

Georgia’s population, like those in other Southern states, is rapidly becoming more diverse because of an influx of immigrants and the reverse migration of African Americans from the North to the South. African Americans make up nearly 31 percent of the state’s voting-age population, Latinos 8 percent and Asian Americans 4 percent. Those groups, along with young voters, were the base of the coalition that twice helped elect Barack Obama, and their growing numbers could signal a shift in electoral power away from white Republicans, who flocked to the GOP in response to civil rights gains of the 1960s.

Ufot said she is frustrated that the New Georgia Project has had to fight so hard for the past two years against efforts by state and county officials that made it more difficult for people to participate in the democratic process.

“We acknowledge that in some areas we’ve worked to make changes, but it’s not happening quickly enough . . . and the clock is ticking.”

By Vanessa Williams/WashPost

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Celebrating Black History Month: Architect, Horace King

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Images: Wikipedia…Horace King

Horace King (sometimes Horace Godwin) (September 8, 1807 – May 28, 1885) was an American architect, engineer, and bridge builder. King is considered the most respected bridge builder of the 19th century Deep South, constructing dozens of bridges in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Born into slavery in South Carolina in 1807, King became a prominent bridge architect and construction manager in the Chattahoochee River Valley region of Alabama and Georgia before purchasing his freedom in 1846. He went on to construct lattice truss bridges in the style of Ithiel Town at every major crossing of the Chattahoochee River and over every major river in the Deep South between the Oconee and Tombigbee.

Bridge completed in 1839 by King over the Chattahoochee River at Eufaula, Alabama.

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