ATLANTA – When Norris Curl moved from Los Angeles to West Cobb County earlier this year, the 64-year-old black man said he was the first to register in Georgia.

“In the past, blacks have not always had the privilege of being able to vote when, for me, it is one of the most sacred civic duties you can do,” he said.

However, while sitting with a few dozen other concerned voters at a Cobb County government facility on Monday afternoon, Curl feared that some voters might shy away from the polls due to a recent decision by election officials to move a black-majority polling station to a police training facility .

Curl, who is not regularly involved in local politics, said he attended the hearing on the matter Monday after speaking about one on the Fair Fight website, a proxy led by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams had experienced possible voter suppression.

“For me it is at least insensitive to have a black community interrogated at a police station,” said Curl shortly before the start of the meeting.

The Cobb County Elections and Registration Board just short of July 19 passed a move that moved a polling station in Austell from Cooper Middle School to the Cobb County Police Academy. Election officials met Monday to consider reversing the change due to come into effect in next year’s midterm elections and keeping the polling station at Cooper Middle School.

The $ 13 million police training facility opened in November 2020. It’s located at the 2435 East-West Connector, about three miles south of the middle school.

Cobb County’s electoral director Janine Eveler said the county has made a concerted effort over the past three years to move its polling stations out of schools as they pose security concerns and are limited in access. She said voters were banned from voting twice because schools were closed due to emergency threats.

After a long and sometimes controversial discussion, the election committee did not make a decision on Monday and postponed its vote to a date to be set.

Election Commissioner Jennifer Mosbacher said she wanted to hear feedback from voters in the South Cobb constituency, of whom nearly 60% of registered voters are black, according to Cobb County’s election records.

During the public hearing on Monday, no voters living within the county lines spoke up. But there was no shortage of opinions.

Many who spoke up supported the move to the police academy, saying it can provide more accessibility for disabled voters and help the county save money.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has publicly criticized the move and sent a September 13 letter to the Election Committee asking members to move the polling site back to Cooper Middle School.

Broderick Jones, a 52-year-old East Cobb resident who is black, said a polling station needs to be a welcoming family environment.

“I don’t see a police station as a welcoming environment. It’s intimidating, ”Jones told an AJC reporter. “A person who is afraid of dogs, who am I to tell them to get over it? When you are scared, you are scared. There is a reason for that. “

Cobb County Police Chief Tim Cox defended his officers during the public hearing. He replied to some comments he had seen in recent news articles that insisted that the police academy could become a hostile environment for black voters.

“I respect people’s opinions and I know that not everyone thinks like me,” said the police chief. “But I felt that some of the comments were a bit offensive as I know the workload and effort this police agency is making to reach and work with all of the communities in this county.”

Robert Maynard accused the ACLU of “stereotyping” voters in the district by claiming they were “hidden criminals” who are afraid to vote anywhere the police are present.

“I think that’s doing a great disservice to the hardworking people in Cooper (county) who are only there to cast a vote,” he said. “You want plenty of parking, easy access, and nice, clean new property.”

Curl compared moving the poll to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in a bar. He said he supported community events to unite the black community with law enforcement, but felt there was still a gap on how the protests last year showed. He also referred to the historical context of Jim Crow era tactics such as “grandfather clauses” and poll taxes, which were aimed at preventing descendants of slaves from voting.

“We still have open wounds. We still have bones that haven’t healed (between) the two sides, ”said Curl.

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