Columbus and Muscogee County have been instrumental in helping the 2nd Congressional district representative Sanford Bishop retain his seat, but a major change by the Muscogee County Board of Elections may have helped tip the balance and opening the metaphorical door for Bishop’s opponent Mike Keown to pull off an upset victory.
Voter apathy and voter anger will affect turnout, but Bishop’s opponent has attempted to make an issue out of scholarships given by Bishop through the Congressional Black Caucus.
The mishandling of the scholarships is not Bishop’s biggest problem.
Bishop has acknowledged his error – “It was clearly a mistake,” he explained to Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution – in giving privately-funded scholarships to his stepdaughter and his wife’s niece. He said he has repaid $6,350 to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.
Sanford Bishop has faced all types of conservative challenges, but a potential wave election that resembles the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress along with Muscogee County changing polling locations in the middle of a mid-term election could provide a ‘perfect storm’ of events.
Bishop’s campaign knows if will be definitely more difficult in this election cycle. A few weeks ago Democratic House Minority Whip James Clyburn visited Albany State University and according to the Albany Herald, told the attentive audience to avoid thinking that African-Americans have arrived politically based on President Obama’s election.
Columbus is one of the biggest population centers in Bishop’s district and it doesn’t appear that much has been done to inform Democratic voters that polling changes will happen on November 2nd. On July 20th, people who voted in the Georgia primary did so at their old polling locations.
Are these changes a subtle form of voter suppression?
Very little media coverage has been done by the local newspaper , the Columbus Ledger Enquirer or local television. Back in early June, there was a brief story about the changes, and in the first week of September, the newspaper had written about efforts from the Board of Elections which said was to help eliminate confusion about 60,000 voters by sending postcards in the next two weeks notifying them of changes in polling places.
Is that enough notice? 2011 or 2012 would have been a more appropriate time to implement these changes.
According to the Ledger-Enquirer, three public hearings will be held to discuss the reduction in polling locations. One is set for Oct. 7 at the main library. The locations and times for the other two are being set. The other two will likely be held in September, one in North Columbus and the other in South Columbus.
Columbus-Muscogee County has close to 100,000 registered voters and approximately 53,000 are part of Sanford Bishop’s 2nd district.
Muscogee is represented by two U.S. congressmen, one represents the Third Congressional district and the other represents the Second Congressional District. The Second Congressional District is Bishop’s and mostly Muscogee’s voting precincts have generally leaned Democrat.
Now with the new changes, it will be interesting how it will affect turnout in this mid-term election in November.
There were 48 voting locations in Muscogee County, but now that number has been reduced to 28.
Every election cycle is unique in regard to turnout and the candidates who are running, but sudden changes during an election year can be a recipe for confusion at the ballot box on Election Day.
Bishop, a conservative Democrat is currently the only African-American in Congress who has won a congressional seat in a majority-white district.