Former Congressman Tony Coelho, Author of ADA, Says Kemp Associate Sought to Violate Federal Civil Rights Law
ATLANTA – Today, Tony Coelho, the principal author of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), condemned the voter suppression tactics of Republican candidate for governor Brian Kemp. Coelho said that Kemp, who refuses to step down from overseeing the election in which he is a candidate, has failed to comply with the ADA and protect the rights of Georgians with disabilities.
“Mr. Kemp has failed his responsibility to ensure that all polling locations in the State of Georgia are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Coelho. “Worse, his associate callously tried to use the ADA as a justification for closing polling locations entirely, which is a violation of the law I and others worked so hard to pass.”
“Voters, especially voters with disabilities, should not be forced to travel 30 miles to vote simply because Mr. Kemp has failed to do his job,” Coelho added.
Mike Malone, a longtime Kemp associate and donor, consulted with the Randolph County Board of Elections following a recommendation by Kemp’s office earlier this year. Malone, who said he was directed by Kemp to “recommend polling closures” across Georgia pushed for closing seven of the nine Randolph County polling locations due to non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Kemp claimed to oppose the Randolph County polling closures. However, new audio evidence highly suggests that Kemp himself directed Malone to recommend these closures.
“That Mr. Kemp or any of his associates would advocate closing polling locations in the name of the ADA is shameful and nonsensical. Closing non-ADA accessible polling locations does not foster compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; rather, it is a violation of that act.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is a landmark law passed with strong bipartisan support and signed into law by then-President George H.W. Bush. Title II of the ADA requires state and local governments to ensure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to vote. However, the law does not permit poll closures as a remedy for non-compliance.
Coelho noted that the majority of voters in Randolph County are African-American.
“Pitting African-American voters against voters with disabilities – many who are also African American – is a shameful new low in voter suppression from Brian Kemp. Voters with disabilities will not be a foil for Mr. Kemp’s voter suppression tactics. He cannot replace one form of discrimination with another.”
Anthony “Tony” Coelho is a former five-term member of Congress from California who also served as House Majority Whip.
Coelho is joining a chorus of advocates criticizing the excuse for poll closure recommendations. The Statewide Independent Living Council of Georgia, along with Rev-Up Georgia, released a letter on Wednesday August 22 condemning the proposal as well, saying “alleging non-compliance with the ADA in the 11th hour to justify the removal of other individuals’ rights flies in the face of the intention behind the ADA of promoting access for all.”
The next meeting of the Randolph County Board of Elections is scheduled for Friday, August 24 at 8:00 am.
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