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Voters cast their ballots. Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Election officials in Georgia on Friday scrapped a widely criticized proposal to close seven of the nine polling stations in a majority-black county less than three months before the midterm elections amid widespread outrage that it would suppress black voters.

Why it matters: The closures in the rural Democratic leaning Black Belt — which President Obama carried in 2008 and 2012, and Hillary Clinton won in 2016 — could have had significant implications in one of the most hotly contested races in November.

  • Meanwhile, Democrat Stacey Abrams, a former state House minority leader who is seeking to become the country’s first black female governor, is heavily relying on highly motivated liberals and nonwhite voters to pull off a victory. The latest census figures says that Randolph County is more than 61% black.

The details: The decision comes the morning after officials terminated the contract of the proposal’s architect. Michael Malone, who was hired this spring to run elections, recommended the closures last week, saying it would be a cost-saving measure and that the sites are in disrepair and inaccessible for persons with disabilities.

  • But voting rights advocates asked why the polling sites were opened for the primary and runoff elections earlier this year if they are not in compliance with federal law. They also argued that proposed closures are located in areas where car ownership is below average, and public transportation is virtually nonexistent — making it logistically difficult for especially low-income residents to vote.

In a statement after Friday's meeting, the board said the county’s population and tax base had declined in recent years, and that there had been discussions regarding the number of polling places to save money. However, after acknowledging the uproar prompted by the proposal, it said it would not follow through with it.

The big picture: For decades, proposals like the one in Randolph County were subject to federal pre-clearance. But the Supreme Court in 2013 nullified a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, which had required jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to seek federal approval before changing their voting laws.

  • The 5-4 ruling in Shelby v. Holder had paved the way for a deluge of restrictive voting laws, leaving minorities' voting rights more vulnerable to suppression.

Read more: The SCOTUS decision enabling voting restrictions

Go deeper

Why made-for-TV moments matter during the pandemic

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Erin Schaff-Pool, Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty Images

In a world where most Americans are isolated and forced to laugh, cry and mourn without friends or family by their side, viral moments can offer critical opportunities to unite the country or divide it.

Driving the news: President Biden's inauguration was produced to create several made-for-social viral moments, a tactic similar to what the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign pulled off during the Democratic National Convention.

Updated 8 hours ago - World

Over 3,000 detained in protests across Russia demanding Navalny's release

Russian police officers beat protestesters at a rally against of jailing of oppositon leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Saturday. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Police in Russia on Saturday arrested more than 3,300 people as protesters nationwide demanded that opposition leader Alexey Navalny be released from jail.

Details: Demonstrations began in the eastern regions of Russia and spread west to more than 60 cities.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona Republicans censure Cindy McCain and GOP governor

Combination images of Cindy McCain and Gov. Doug Ducey. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic for U.S.VETS/Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Arizona Republican Party members voted on Saturday to censure prominent GOP figures Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who've all faced clashes with former President Trump.

Why it matters: Although the resolution is symbolic, this move plus the re-election of the Trump-endorsed Kelli Ward as state GOP chair shows the strong hold the former president has on the party in Arizona, despite President Biden winning the state in the 2020 election.