WHO IS STACEY ABRAMS?

Stacey Abrams credited for boosting Democrats in Georgia
Stacey Abrams; picture credentials: gettyimages.com

If you were anything like me last week, you were on the edge of your seat waiting to hear results about the presidential election. In doing so, you, like me, were surprised to see Georgia, a traditionally red state shift from red to blue. This work can be accredited to Stacey Abrams and her team. In this recent election, a record of nearly 5 million Georgians voted. This number is nearly 1 million more than four years ago.

Stacey Abrams is Georgia’s former House Minority Leader. I, alongside many other Americans, had seen her last year giving the Democratic response to Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech in 2016. In 2018, Stacey Abrams ran for governor of Georgia against Brian Kemp, who was the then secretary of state. She lost by just 55,000 votes and attributed that loss to voter suppression in a state where the election was run by the opponent itself. The year before, the Republican-run state slashed nearly 670,000 voters from its rolls. Nearly 70% of those voters were black – a stark racial disparity since only 32% of Georgia’s population is black.

Since Abrams was 17, she has been fighting voter suppression. She said, “Politicians believe their way to preserve their power is to impede the ability of voters to be heard. And typically, they target people of color, young people, and they target the poor.” In one of my previous posts, I discussed voter suppression. By simply comparing polling areas in areas where the vast majority of people are minorities and/or are poor, one can see the great disparities in votes and access to voting between them and areas where the majority of people are white.

She did not give up after her loss. “She went straight to work to tear down barriers to the ballot, and build power for overlooked communities — both in Georgia and around the country,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. She and the collective efforts of Fair Fight and the New Georgia Project helped register 800,000 new Georgia voters, mostly in communities of color. They would go door-to-door in pockets of communities that had never been touched and would ask them if they were registered voters and if their loved ones/neighbors were also. Her work doesn’t stop in Georgia. Fair Fight also helped Biden win in Wisconsin and other key swing states this year.

Now, she is preparing for the Georgia run-off elections which will decide which party controls the Senate. Democratic candidates Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are competing against incumbents Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. If you live in Georgia, you have until December 7th to register to vote in the runoff! The link to register to vote is here. Also, a reminder to the younger people in Georgia, if you will turn 18 before January 5, 2021, you can register to vote in the runoff! Again, please register and VOTE!

VOTE VOTE VOTE!

Heading to the Polls on Election Day in Chicago? Here's Everything You Need  To Know | Chicago News | WTTW
VOTE 2020

Tomorrow, November 3rd, 2020, is Election Day, so please vote! Tomorrow is the last day. Please make sure to bring all necessary information such as a photo ID like your driver’s license or a passport. This event will include voting for president and vice-president, 1/3 of the Senate, and all of the House of Representatives. State and local elections will also be on the ballot in many areas.

Federal elections take place every two years, on even-numbered years. State and local elections can occur at other times throughout the year. This includes primary and special elections. Check with your state or local election office or the U.S. Vote Foundation for elections coming up in your area and to see if you can vote early or by absentee ballot.

You are not only voting for a president. You are also voting for your representative and for your senators!

Also, I wanted to remind everyone that every vote counts! There have been many instances where just a few votes yielded a significant difference. For example, in 2017, a Virginia House of Delegates races ended in a tie out of more than 23,000 votes cast. This tie was broken by pulling a name, placed in a film canister, out of a bowl. Republican David Yancey was declared the winner that night. This result was significant as this win gave Republicans control of the state House by the single seat. In 2016, a Vermont state Senate Democratic primary was determined by a single vote out of more than 7,400 cast.

I have attached a good resource that might help if you have any more questions about voting on Election Day!

https://www.usa.gov/election-day

VOTER SUPPRESSION

How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts This November in Texas – Texas Monthly
Remember to Vote! Picture Credentials: Texas Monthly

In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This act was created to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that ensured that minorities, primarily African Americans, would be unable to exercise their right to vote which was given to them through the 15th Amendment. The 15th Amendment states:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Amendment XV

This amendment, which was ratified in 1870, prevented states from denying a male citizen the right to vote based on “race, color or previous condition of servitude.” Nevertheless, state legislators sought loopholes and used various discriminatory practices to prevent African Americans from exercising their right to vote. Some examples of these practices are literacy tests, poll taxes, grandfather clauses (laws that made men eligible to vote if their ‘grandfather’ had been able to vote before African-Americans were allowed to) or outright lying. Black people attempting to vote would often be met with an election official telling them that they had gotten the wrong day/location/time or that they would need to take a literacy test. Due to oppression and insufficient schooling, black people had a much higher rate of illiteracy compared to white people. So, they were often forced to take literacy tests and if they failed, would be sent away. The Voting Rights Act banned the use of literacy tests, grandfather clauses, and “good character tests.” After the Act had been passed, voter turnout amongst black people significantly jumped. In Mississippi alone, it had jumped from a mere 6% in 1964 to 59% in 1969.

In June 2013, the supreme court altered the section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in a case called Shelby county v. Holder. In a 5-4 ruling, the court decided that the landmark law that required certain states and localities with a history of discrimination against minority voters to get changes cleared by the federal government before they went into effect would be removed. This removal would mean that discriminatory voting policies could not be blocked before they harmed voters. Immediately after the decision, Republican lawmakers in Texas and North Carolina, who were both previously covered by the law, moved to enact new voter ID laws and other restrictions meant to spur voter suppression. These types of discriminatory practices fly under the radar of the federal court because they are not able hear about the local changes, let alone stop them.

Here are some ways that voter suppression has surged since this ruling:

  • Polling Place Closures
    • Between 2012 and 2018, there were 1,688 polling place closures in states that were covered by section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. In the video I embedded below, the New York Times team details the discriminatory practices that Georgia uses to suppress their black voters. In the video, in a predominately black area, a man had to wait 7 hours, 45 minutes, and 13 seconds just to vote. Comparatively, a polling place in a predominately white, suburban area had to wait 20 minutes to vote.
  • Voter ID Laws
    • In every state that were restricted before, Black and Latinx voters were more likely not to have a government issued photo ID, which is why Republicans are pushing for stricter voter ID laws.
  • Proof of Citizenship