• Giugi Carminati

Stolen Election: Stacey Abrams and the Enduring Legacy of Reconstruction

(Originally published on January 12, 2019)

Stacey Abrams lost the election for Georgia's Governorship - or so the record shows. But really, did she?

In Georgia, GOP voter suppression efforts were in full swing before and during the last election. Even a cursory review of the data raises serious questions about the integrity of the voting rolls. And this is not by accident.

Georgia is a prime example of what has been happening throughout the country and will continue to deprive significant portions of the American electorate of having a real say in their democracy. Since before 2013, when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act--courtesy of Justice Roberts--the GOP has successfully waged a war on minority voters and other voters more likely to vote for Democratic candidates. In her book "One Person, No Vote," Carol Anderson draws a near-perfect arch between post Civil War Reconstruction and Jim Crow laws to current GOP efforts. This arch does not bend towards justice. The reality is that until and unless we--the public, the Democratic Party, and its allies--address this particular issue, we are re-arranging deck chairs on the sinking Titanic of our democracy.

So let's look at the numbers.

Brian Kemp, who was running against Stacey Abrams and was Georgia's Secretary of State, cancelled 591,000 inactive voter registrations. The basis for these cancellations was that the voters were supposedly deceased, had moved, or were felons. In addition, Kemp purged 107,000 voters for not voting or not responding to a notice that they were about to be purged. In other words, the mere failure to respond to a notice resulted in deprivation of a basic constitutional right. In addition, 53,000 voters were considered as "mismatched" and placed on "pending" status, subject to verification. The problem with all of these numbers is not the utter lack of accountability (more on this later) but, more concerning, how targeted these purges and "mismatches" were.

According to The Root, 63% of purged registration were for black voters. But the black population of Georgia is 30.5% of the state. How then did the voter purge over represent that particular democratic by 100%? In addition, of the "pending" registrations, 70% were for black voters. This means that out of the voting population, 37,000 people of color saw their vote suspended without being notified of this fact. They only found out at the polling locations, when it was too late to do anything about it.

The fact that the man responsible for these purges was not only running but was directly benefited from these losses of voting rights should alarm anyone who even remotely cares about living in a democracy.

"In a single day, more than half a million people (8 percent of Georgia's registered voters) were cut from voter rolls. Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp . . . oversaw the removals eight months after he'd declared himself a candidate for governor." https://www.apmreports.org/story/2018/10/19/georgia-voter-purge

While defenders of the practice argue that "use it or lose it," as it is called, is constitutional and non-discriminatory, the only data available most definitely indicates a racially disparate impact. Georgia does not actually keep records of why it purges voters, individually. It merely declares that it is applying its policy. But there is no way to actually verify this. The outcome is simply accepted as a result of that policy.

In addition to the above, Kemp routinely shut down or changed voting locations in Georgia's rural black counties. See https://www.theroot.com/is-that-all-you-got-georgia-organizations-were-ready-f-1829702677

And before someone trots out the argument that I am assuming black voters would vote for Stacey Abrams over Brian Kemp, they did: at a rate of 92%. White voters, on the other hand, voted for Kemp at a rate of 72%.  Kemp knows where "his toast gets buttered." The final margin came down to approximately 50,000--far less than the number Kemp conveniently got rid of through purges.

This is shameful. It is nothing less than a continuation of America's long history of voter disenfranchisement of the poor and attacks on black voters particularly. As long as people like Kemp and his ilk can choose their constituents, instead of being chosen by the constituents, we will continue to fail on our promise of democracy. We will also be missing on the opportunity to have phenomenal leaders, especially female and diverse leaders, like Stacey Abrams. This is rage-inducing and harmful to our country.

Enough. One person, one vote. Every time, every year, in every state. This is what we should be striving for.

What can you do?

  • Oppose voter ID laws or demand that any Government-issued ID be acceptable, including public housing IDs, military IDs, college IDs, government benefit IDs, birth certificates, and passports;

  • Demand abolition of "use it or lose it" policies;

  • Demand longer early voting periods;

  • Demand that every election day be a Federal Holiday;

  • Demand mail-in voting from your State legislature; and

  • Impose fines and jail time for voter suppression efforts.

This is a race issue. This is also a gender issue. Women are more likely to run, and win, for the Democratic Party. The same is true of people of color. When GOP efforts disenfranchise black voters and poor voters, they are stopping people of color and women from reaching the levers of power, both as citizens and candidates. It is imperative for all of us and the Democratic Party in particular to put an end to it. Anything less is a tacit acceptance that a status quo favoring men and whites is acceptable to those already in power.

Refuse to accept this as status quo. Fight back.

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