“Alexa, who’s Stacey Abrams?” asked Doris Truong from Poynter. The woman you can thank for turning Georgia blue. The first Black woman to win a major-party gubernatorial nomination in the U.S. for Georgia. Her race for state governor had opened the eyes of many non-voters and exposed the ongoing issue of voter suppression.
In documentary All In: The Fight for Democracy, the history of voter suppression in the South was paralleled the rigged turnout of Georgia’s governor race in 2018. Abrams documented the hard work of her and her campaign team did to bring out and register voters from every corner of Georgia. Her opponent, Gov. Brian Kemp, was accused of manipulating the results by making thousands of Black votes disappear.
Nearly 80,000 votes were missing when counting the results for the race. Due to malfunctioning polling devices and last-minute changes to voter registration requirements disproportionately affected communities of color. Though, the issue was never looked into, Abrams sounded alarms around the almost obvious cheating of democracy. From that moment, voter suppression and the value of the vote shuffled to the front of Georgia’s agenda.
Once Stacey Abrams lost the 2018 election by a narrow margin, she continued to mobilize and organize voters for the final boss: the presidential election. ABC News noted that the large numbers of Black people moving down to Atlanta anticipated the number of Black voters was also anticipated to rise. Around the time of this migration in 2013, Abrams had begun the New Georgia Project to combat voter suppression and help people of color register to vote. Following the race, Abrams launched another program to protect voting rights called Fair Fight Action. The work the organization does furthers that of NGP and helped fight obstacles that come in the way of voting registration and eligibility.
After the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed, southern radicals who fought to oppress Black voters put in place requirements to make voting more difficult. On the surface, the tactics seemed legal and logical. However, it set back and discouraged Black people from participating in their constitutional right. Back then, literacy tests determined voting eligibility, poll taxes forced Black voters to choose to either eat or vote and they were harassed or killed for even approaching the ballot box. Now, the tactics are still racist but more sophisticated. Polling sites get shut down in minority communities, people of color are purged from voting lists without their recognition and poll taxes put a burden on low-income communities.
The New York Times reported Abrams helped register up to 800,000 voters and fought against minor errors used to disqualify ballots. There’s a reason why she never conceded the election: there was too much work to be done still and she was determined to do it.
“I acknowledge that former Secretary of State Brian Kemp will be certified as the victor in the 2018 gubernatorial election. But to watch an elected official who claims to represent the people in the state boldly pin his hopes for election on the repression of the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling. So, let’s be clear, this is not a speech of concession — because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper…as a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that,” said Stacey Abrams in 2018 following the election results.
Featured Image by Joe Biden on Flickr