Georgia’s Midterms Aren’t Just About Making History in the Governor’s Race, But Also the Right to Vote
The contentious governor’s race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican candidate Brian Kemp is one of the most anticipated elections in the midterms. But for some Georgians, it’s not so much about who they’re going to vote for, but whether they can vote at all.
On October 9, the Associated Press reported that Kemp, who’s currently holding office as Secretary of State in Georgia, was withholding an estimated 53,000 voter registrations for such reasons as a hyphen missing from a person’s name on the application. Then, the following week, a bus filled with elderly Black people headed to vote on the first day of early voting in Louisville, Georgia, were ordered to get off the bus and head back home.
According to MSNBC, Jefferson County Administrator Adam Brett said that because Jefferson County Democratic Party Chairwoman Diane Evans was partially involved in organizing the trip to the voting polls, the trip itself violated “guidelines imposed on county-sponsored events.” But others saw the voter block as an intimidation tactic.
Georgia’s voter suppression isn’t anything new, as the AP reports; Kemp himself has suppressed millions of votes for years. In a process he calls “voter roll maintenance,” more than 1.4 million voter registrations have been rejected since 2012. In 2017, almost 670,000 registrations were canceled. Many on those lists are Black voters.
Marsha Appling-Nunez was one of those people who, despite voting in every single election, was informed earlier in the month that she was no longer recognized as a registered voter in her county. The reason was one missing letter in her name on her registration. (She tells us that, as a result of making “noise” online and in the media about her revoked voter status, she has been successfully re-registered and will be casting her vote early.)
On October 23, during their debate, Abrams criticized Kemp — who’s also officially overseeing his own election — about his attempt to instill fear in the minds of voters, saying “the right to vote is a right.”
Abrams, who served as minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives between 2011 and 2017, said: “My father was arrested helping people register [during the Civil Rights movement] so I take the right to vote very seriously. Under Secretary Kemp, more people have lost the right to vote in the state of Georgia. They’ve been purged, they’ve been suppressed, and they’ve been scared. The reality is, voter suppression is not simply about being told no. It’s about being told it’s going to be hard to cast a ballot. That’s the deeper concern I have.”
In an interview with Brit + Co, Ariel Felton, a resident of Savannah who’s volunteering with Planned Parenthood to inform the public on Abrams’ advocacy of women’s rights, said she’s feeling very nervous about the midterm elections, and the gubernatorial race in particular. The latest poll shows Abrams and Kemp are in a virtual tie. Felton said that during the presidential election, she was overly confident about what the outcome would be and doesn’t want to make that same mistake again. She also said that some may just be rooting for Abrams because of her race, and not looking further at her politics.
“I think a lot of people are focusing more on the fact that Stacey Abrams would be the first Black [female] governor in the nation, and that is very dear and near to my own heart, but I also hope people are paying attention to the issues,” Felton said.
Some of those issues Abrams is fighting for include gun control laws, high-quality education for public schools, and equal rights for all, including LGBTQ+ people and immigrants. Latinx organizations like Mijente are targeting Latinx communities, like Gwinnett County, with information campaigns advocating a vote for Abrams.
“Black and brown communities are over policed and are being criminalized at disproportionate rates,” Carlos Garcia, a founding member of Mijente, said in a statement. “With a bigot currently running the country, we must learn to trust and show up for each other. It is time to give Stacey Abrams an opportunity to better conditions in Georgia and raise the bar for elected officials in the South and throughout the United States.”
The NAACP and the ACLU have meanwhile filed lawsuits against Shelby County over alleged defective voter registration applications, against Kemp, and all county registrars, “demanding they provide due process for Georgia voters whose absentee ballots or applications are being rejected due to an alleged mismatch of signatures.”
Click here for more information on how to legally vote when you’re being denied your right.
(Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence)