The Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections voted a compromise plan to cut the number of voting precincts from 40 down to 33 rather than the 26 it had originally planned. With three precincts set to close anyway, it’s a net loss of four. Will that get the board of elections where it needs to be to meet the mandated cuts by the Macon-Bibb County Board of Commissioners? At this writing, that’s unknown, but what is known is that it is impossible to escape the perceptions of history.
There was a time in the not too distant past in this community when voting by African-Americans was actively suppressed by any means necessary, and roadblocks for blacks were normal business at the elections board. Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Elaine Lucas was a regular thorn in the side of elections officials as she protested -- young children in tow -- to make it easier for blacks to register and vote. Although those days have passed, they are far from forgotten. And it is those memories that derailed the effort to cut the number of precincts.
Though much of the rhetoric was far from true, there are recent examples that made many of the arguments somewhat believable. The Voting Rights Act was attacked successfully. Some states have cut the number of early voting days, and voter ID laws are thought by some to disenfranchise minority communities.
In other ways, though, voting has become easier than ever before. Absentee ballots are freely issued. Registration is also an easy process at any Department of Driver Services location as well as the ability to register online and, of course, at any elections office. And there are a number of groups that regularly hold voter registration drives.
What isn’t so easy here or anywhere else is getting voters, once registered, to cast their ballots. For some, it wouldn’t matter if we had 200 precinct locations. In last year’s general election it was considered a good turnout when we barely broke 50 percent. Still, more than 40,000 voters sat the election out. If we want to get our feathers ruffled about voter suppression, we need some of those voters to take a look in the mirror.