Closure of polling places leads to protest and possible lawsuit

FRESNO, California

The protestors and those who spoke out during the Fresno County Board of Supervisors meeting said the decision by Salazar not only violates state elections law, but appears to violate federal civil rights laws. Allegria De La Cruz of the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment told the board the reduction in polling places would deprive many of the right to vote. "This decision to close voting sites is going to severely limit the ability of many Fresno County voters to vote. It will most certainly impact the rights of African Americans and Latinos to vote in contravention of voting rights laws."

Supervisor Henry Perea agreed that Salazar's decision to eliminate voting places would hurt the poor. "There are people I'm sure all over this country who stay up at night thinking about ways to disenfranchise our voters in our poorer communities, and we did it to ourselves." He said.

Civil rights groups are threatening legal action unless the same polling places that were available during the primary are open for the November election. But Salazar says it can't be done. "I just don't think it's a viable option." Salazar said.

Salazar said that at this late date it would not be possible to get those locations back, and to notify voters of where they can go. He says it would be more confusing to voters.

Salazar said he had no choice since the supervisors cut his budget. He is now working on a possible compromise, to put voting machines in libraries and community centers on the Saturday before the election but critics say that's not enough and the fact the voting locations were changed without proper notice could lead to court challenges of any close races in the November 2nd vote.

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