Updated: Nov 9, 2018
Voting is a core component of our racial, social, and reproductive justice work. Black people and other people of color have been historically disenfranchised through poll taxes, literacy exams, segregation, voter intimidation, redlining, and gerrymandering. In 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act and removed safeguards put in place to monitor the election activities of nine states - including Georgia - with a serious history of disenfranchisement. The Court's majority felt that minorities - specifically racial minorities - were no longer facing the serious barriers to voting prevalent through the Jim Crow era.
Here in Georgia, we know that racially-motivated voter suppression is alive and well. Through various programs the Georgia Secretary of State's office has delayed, rejected, or purged the registration information of hundreds of thousands of potential voters. A disproportionate number of these potential voters are people of color.
Yesterday, members of our staff worked to assist voters by making Get Out The Vote calls, serving in their individual capacities as poll workers in their local polling place, and acting as nonpartisan election protection volunteers at select polling places. One staff member was stationed at Booker T. Washington High School - one of the two polling places forced by court order to extend voting hours to address concerns over voter suppression. Specifically, more than sixty students from Spelman College who reported to Washington - their assigned polling place - were forced to cast their votes using provisional ballots or were diverted to other polling places after their information "could not be found" in the voter system. These women left the polls yesterday unsure as to whether their vote would be counted. Further, due in part to the unprecedented number of provisional ballots used, for over an hour in the afternoon Washington ran out of provisional ballots and had to divert close to ten voters to other locations. One poll worker stated that in the past five elections she remembers issuing a maximum of eleven provisional ballots. This year she issued over one hundred.
There are additional reports of voters experiencing other serious problems, including being told they already voted when they presented themselves to vote and being made to vote on provisional ballots for violations of the "exact match" law, despite an injunction.
We are so encouraged by those in our community working tirelessly to make our voices heard but recognize that there are institutions in place trying to silence us. Our work to ensure racial and reproductive equity starts by making sure all eligible voters are able to register and cast their ballot. Only then can we work to elect representatives and approve ballot initiatives that serve our communities' needs.
Despite the challenges faced in Georgia and across the country, we will continue to fight to demand and restore equity in our electoral system and democracy. Across the country, we recognize the historic wins and record numbers of minorities and women elected to positions of power at all levels of government. We are continuously inspired by our communities’ commitment to voting as but one crucial aspect of our democracy.