Docs: Obama DOJ’s Lax Oversight Caused Georgia County to Close Polling Locations

Disabled Black Voter
Elliot Spagat/AP

The Obama Justice Department told a Georgia county not to submit reports on fixing its polling locations, leading to the closure of some of those locations for not being accessible to those with disabilities, according to documents obtained by Breitbart News.

The revelation comes as several Wednesday reports accused Randolph County, Georgia, of disenfranchising black voters as the county’s board of elections is considering a measure that would close seven out of nine polling places for being non-compliant under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Obama administration’s Civil Rights Division, led by then-Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, penned a letter to James Bradley of the Randolph County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners on December 1, 2016, saying that the Justice Department (DOJ) would no longer require the county to submit “yearly reports,” according to a 2016 letter from Gupta’s DOJ Civil Rights Division to Randolph County obtained by Breitbart News.

“Relying upon the evidence submitted by the County, thus far, the Department is no longer requiring yearly reports to be submitted. However, the obligation to complete all remedial actions remains,” the letter stated.

Tommy Coleman, a longtime Randolph County attorney, confirmed this in an interview with the Associated Press Wednesday, saying the Justice Department did not reach out to the county seeking updates on fixing the ADA violations in their buildings and the county did not provide them.

Coleman said that the county’s financial hardships have made it difficult to bring the buildings up to ADA standards.

The lax enforcement from the Obama administration led to voter disenfranchisement in 75 percent of the rural Georgia county of approximately 7,000 residents—where 61 percent of its residents are black, according to Census data.

The Obama administration, which prided itself on being a pioneer of civil rights enforcement, promised to strictly monitor the county’s compliance with the ADA.

In July 2011, the DOJ initiated a compliance review of the county, and conducted an on-site survey of the county’s buildings, services, and programs the following month.

One year later, the Justice Department announced they would be settling out-of-court with Randolph County “to ensure civic access for people with disabilities.”

In the July 2012 press release announcing the settlement, the Justice Department said that it would “actively monitor compliance with the agreements until it has confirmed that all required actions have been completed.”

According to the settlement, Randolph County agreed to update its facilities to make them more ADA-compliant. The county agreed to remove any barriers to county-owned polling places and requested that the owners of non-county owned polling places remove those barriers within the next nine months.

The county also agreed to provide alternate polling places for people who could not access them due to disability, but they did not agree to close non-ADA-compliant polling places without providing an ADA-compliant substitute.

The terms of the agreement would last for three years, according to the settlement.

But after the terms of the settlement expired in 2016, the DOJ no longer asked Randolph County for updates on how much progress it made making its facilities ADA-compliant.

Gupta, who assumed leadership of the Obama DOJ’s civil rights’ division in 2014, said in a 2017 interview with C-SPAN that the Obama administration had been “aggressively enforcing civil rights laws” throughout her tenure as the Obama DOJ’s civil rights chief.

Since Gupta left the DOJ, she became the President & CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and spent her time criticizing the Trump administration.

Gupta, who once said that treating criminal defendants in a color-blind fashion “rationalized racism,” criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions in November 2017 “for his unwillingness to recognize the history of this country is rooted in immigration,” and claimed he has a “distinctly anti-immigrant” worldview.

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