On May 12th Stacey Abram’s Fair Fight and other progressive activist groups sent a letter to Milton’s City Council, protesting the city’s rejection of a third election-day polling location in Milton’s District 3, which is Milton’s most populous district–encompassing the Windward/Deerfield/Highway 9 area. Districts 1 and 2 were allocated day-of polling locations, but not District 3. I am attaching Fair Fight’s letter at the bottom of this blog post.
Yes, Ms. Abrams is targeting Milton. And I want to be very clear that Council Members Moore and Mohrig (and political activists Lisa Cauley and Mark Amick) are responsible for unnecessarily placing a ginormous political target on Milton’s back. These 4 Miltonites (along with 2 city staff) composed Milton’s Election Feasibility Committee that 1) recommended that Milton run its own municipal elections and 2) provided a high-level municipal election design. They are now insisting that Milton blindly implement every element of their design—no matter how nonsensical or unfair.
Two elements of this design were 1) early day voting locations (only one at Milton City Hall) and 2) two election day voting locations. Milton is divided into 3 districts. However, only 2 election day polling places were designated (this is down from 8 under Fulton County): one in District 1 (Milton City Hall) and one in District 2 (the old Milton Country Club). No polling location was designated in District 3. Odd, right? The reason should be intuitively obvious to even the most casual observer. Nevertheless, let me explain . . .
District 3 has the highest concentration of Democrat voters. Denying District 3 a polling location is “too coincidental to be a coincidence” (to quote Yogi Berra). Interestingly, District 3 is actually the most logical location for both early and election day voting polling stations. Traffic in Milton tends to move from north and west to south and east, as Miltonites commute to work, drop off children at school, travel to shopping/eating/etc. This means many voters have ample reason to pass through District 3 on any given day; the same cannot be said of Milton’s 2 other districts. In fact, I suspect many District 3 residents have never ventured to Crabapple or Birmingham Crossroads.
Furthermore, 30% of Milton’s early votes historically have been cast at the Alpharetta Library. Given the proximity of District 3 to the Alpharetta Library, it can be convincingly argued that many/most of these votes come from District 3. So not only have District 3 voters been denied a convenient polling location on election day, they (along with non-Crabapple area voters) have also been denied a convenient early-voting location in Alpharetta. Thus District 3 voters have been twice disadvantaged by Milton’s election design. (Note: 10% of early votes have historically been cast outside Milton and Alpharetta, which will no longer be a voting option for Miltonites.)
And let’s be honest. District 3 is comprised of less expensive housing, including all of Milton’s apartment complexes. District 3 is where Miltonites of more modest means live . . . Milton’s police officers, fire fighters, teachers, restaurant/retail workers, tradespeople, etc. You will also find there more families where both spouses work or that are headed by a single parent . . . families with limited time and resources. In short, these are the voters for whom we need to make voting easiest, but for whom Milton is making voting most difficult. And that is WRONG. Only basic common sense need be applied to understand that Milton’s current election scheme was designed to dampen voting in District 3. Interestingly, both District 3 Council Members—Rick Mohrig and Jan Jacobus—support the current scheme . . . as does Andrea Verhoff, who was voted into office by a coalition of Democrats and more sober and level-headed Republicans.
Furthermore, Mohrig et al’s assertion that 2 locations are needed to minimize costs doesn’t hold water. If costs are a driver, then I would suggest replacing the District 2 polling location (the former Milton Country Club), which is furthest from Milton’s population centers, with a District 3 polling location. Given traffic patterns in Milton, a District 3 location would also best serve as Milton’s early voting location. If we care about costs, don’t we want to get the most bang for our buck (votes per $ spent on the election) . . . the maximum number of (legitimate) votes for our election budget? Again, this seems to be plain common sense, except to Moore, Mohrig, Cauley, and Amick. The current election scheme only makes sense in the context of partisan politics.
Some far-right political partisans are trying to shift the blame (away from Moore and Mohrig) to Mayor Jamison for Ms. Abrams letter to council. And at last Monday night’s council meeting, these partisans unleashed their hounds. The Mayor was called “woke” and “Marxist.” However, a reaction to Milton’s election design from the left was inevitable, so this orchestrated attack on the mayor was mostly political posturing/positioning. The truth is that Mayor Jamison foresaw the coming storm and did his best to remove the target from Milton’s back, but to no avail. Although a registered Republican and political conservative, Jamison understands that partisanship, particularly in the design of elections, is unprincipled and, more importantly, a distraction from accomplishment of Milton’s highest priorities (like over-development) which are decidedly non-partisan. Milton is best served by non-partisanship.
I am not a fan of Ms. Abrams. Our country is not well-served by an “open borders” approach to voting. The integrity of elections is important. Ballot harvesting is a troubling issue that should be addressed. Sensible voter identification laws are the norm in western democracies. On the other hand, our country needs to minimize obvious hurdles to voting. Ms. Abrams took the wrong approach in her letter. Unfortunately, Ms. Abrams played the race card, which was wrong, unnecessary, and ultimately counter-productive. If her purpose was to persuade, she failed. Such reflexive and ill-conceived appeals based on race only serve to rile the hard-right and tamp down rational debate. Cause should not be confused with effect. The intent (i.e., the cause) in Milton’s election design was to diminish the Democrat vote, not to explicitly suppress black/brown voters. However, given that a disproportionate number of black/brown voters reside in District 3 and are Democrats, the net effect of Milton’s election design will make voting more difficult for most black and brown voters in Milton and therefore the current election scheme is discriminatory.
The Milton Herald has done a great job covering the evolving story of local elections in Milton and North Fulton. Following is a link to the Milton Herald‘s webpage on municipal elections.
Milton Herald: Municipal Elections Web Page
A sentient reader might be asking how we got to this sorry state of affairs? And you hopefully are asking the obvious question: Why are council members designing elections in which they will be running? (Both Moore and Mohrig are up for re-election in 2023). Unethical, huh? Well these questions are topics for my next blog post. Suffice to say that Milton’s design of its elections is a story of dishonesty, incompetence, and vitriolic partisanship. It is a story that should convince citizens to flock to the ballot box to turn Moore and Mohrig out of office.
Advocating for Free and Fair Elections,
Note: My blog is non-partisan and will remain so. Partisanship does not translate well at the local level in Milton. Milton is best served by non-partisanship in spirit and in deed. The infection of local politics with partisan plague will only serve to harm Milton and tear the community asunder.