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  • Chrysta Wilson

Georgia's Election Further Illuminates Why We Need Federal Anti-Racist Voter Protections

Updated: Jun 11

NBC News' Headline today was "Georgia's election 'catastrophe' in largely minority areas sparks an investigation."



But for many of us, we are very clear why and how this happened. Organizers like Black Voters Matter, and Fair Fight understand that voter suppression in Georgia has been happening in plain sight for years and that it is one of the biggest threats to our Democracy today. Especially for Black voters, young voters, immigrant voters, low-income voters, rural voters, elderly voters, and voters from other groups that have been marginalized by our own governments.


When we talk about the voter suppression seen on Election Day in Georgia on June 9, it is essential that we recognize two important truths:


➡️ There is a throughline that connects back to the 1960's Civil Rights Movement and fight for Black Voter protections, and,


➡️ There is a throughline that connects from the 1960s back to the failed promise the United States government made to its newly freed Black Citizens in 1865 when they were emancipated from Chattel Slavery and promised voting rights in 1870.


State Governments have been denying African Americans the right to vote since their emancipation from Chattel Slavery in 1865. #ReadThatAgain.


And even though the #FifteenthAmendment to the #Constitution prohibits federal and state governments from denying African Americans the right to vote (starting in 1870 when the amendment was ratified), this has never been universally protected and enforced. #ReadThatAgain.


So, 100 years after the 15th Amendment was ratified, Congress passed the #VotingRightsActof1965 (VRA) because the White elected officials that made up the consolidated power of local and state governments were still denying Blacks their constitutional right to vote.


And these governments haven’t stopped their voter suppression tactics: they have simply reinvented what voter suppression looks like by creating "race neutral" policies that are still racist in impact because they create deep racial inequities by suppressing the Black Vote. As the North Carolina Supreme Court said in a recent ruling, these governments are doing it with "surgical precision".


And now here we are, June 9, 2020.

  • 55 years after the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

  • 150 years after the 15th Amendment was ratified.


And governments across the Southern States are continuing the very American Tradition of Black Voter Suppression.


By this point, I know you've already read a lot. But there is more that you need to know to understand what happened in Georgia today. There’s a historical and modern context for the Georgia Voter Suppression that is reported in the NBC News article at the top of this blog post. We need to know our history so that we can collectively be more discerning when we see these headlines about "election catastrophes" in communities of color.


On Becoming Anti-Racist


Professor, scholar, writer Ibram X. Kendi says that we are either Racist or Anti-Racist.


We either proliferate policies and/or ideas that eradicate racial inequities, which makes us Antiracist.


Or, We are Racist through either our proliferation of policies and/or ideas that create racial inequities. We can also be racist through our inaction to address ideas or policies that create racial inequities.


My hope is that the information I provide below, this crash course in history and constitutional amendments, law, and SCOTUS cases, provides you with context for development more discernment so that you may be a better Anti-Racist ally and advocate.



Main Points (TL;DR):


This brief is broken into 6 sections that are important to understand what happened in today's election in Georgia on June 9.


1️⃣ Southern Republicans Have Been Suppressing Votes Since 2013
2️⃣ Today’s Voter Suppression Is Why The Federal Government Enacted the Voting Rights Act of 1965
3️⃣ In 2013, the Supreme Court Invalidated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which gave Southern States the Green Light For Voter Suppression
4️⃣ Which Is How We Got To Today and Georgia’s 7 years of Purging Voters. (And How Republican Voter Suppression May Have Cost Georgia a Democratic Governor in 2018)
5️⃣ In 2018, Georgia’s Secretary of State and Chair of State Elections Stayed In Both Roles to Manage the Election WHILE Concurrently Running for Governor. (Ignoring clear conflicts of interest and previous good faith acts from former Secretaries of State that stepped down when they were in similar positions.)
6️⃣ Since the VRA was gutted in 2013, Georgia Republicans have purged 1.3 million voters.
  • Since 2013, Georgia has closed 214 polling places. In 2020, in Metro Atlanta, where the majority of Black voters live, there were 80 fewer polling places for the June 9 primary which left 16,000 active registered voters from 5 precincts having to vote in 1 polling place.



1️⃣ Southern Republicans Have Been Suppressing Votes Since 2013


Republican-led Southern States, like Georgia, have been engaged in voter suppression tactics for seven years, starting in 2013, which include closing voting sites and purging voter registration rolls, all to make it more difficult for Black voters (and voters of color) to exercise their right to vote.


The GOP says their actions are to reduce voter fraud. But federal courts and even State Supreme Courts have continually disproved this position. The impartial courts have ruled time and time again that the GOP is doing this to restrict Black voters.

Black voters in the American South generally vote for Democratic Party candidates. If Republican Legislatures and Governors can make it harder for Blacks to vote, they will see a net reduction in the number of Democratic ballots cast.




2️⃣ Today’s Voter Suppression Is Why the Federal Government Enacted The Voting Rights Act of 1965


Voter suppression happens across the nation. I’m calling out the Southern States specifically because this is where there is still a concentration of Black voters and Black Voter Suppression efforts in Republican-led State Legislatures and Governor's Mansions.


What cannot be forgotten is that the Southern States are the former Slave States.

The Southern States are where most African Americans in the United States lived in 1865. By 1965, even after the #GreatMigration, there was a concentration of the United States' African American population in the Southern States.


As a result, the Southern States were where the fight for Civil Rights for Black Americans was fought.


In 1965, 100 years after the end of the Civil War, Congress passed the "The Voting Rights Act of 1965", which created federal mandates to make it easier for Black people to exercise their legal rights to vote.


Because the Southern States were actively suppressing and violently preventing Black People from voting, the VRA mandated that the Southern States remove all barriers which prevented African Americans from voting.


Additionally, Section 5 of the VRA expressly mandated that before any Southern State made changes to their election processes or voter requirements, they had to get permission from the Federal Government.


Section 5 was important because the Federal Government served as the moral conscious for the Southern States who proved they couldn’t do it on their own since racism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy was so entrenched within the Southern Governments that they were unwilling to allow Black citizens to vote.




3️⃣ In 2013 the #SupremeCourt Invalidated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which gave the Southern States the Green Light For Voter Suppression


In 2013, the Supreme Court made a ruling in Shelby County v Holder where they invalidated #Section5 of the Voting Rights Amendment, removing the provision that required states with a history of voter discrimination (e.g. Southern States) to get approval from the Federal Government before changing voting rules and election requirements.


This decision allowed the Republican-led governments of the Southern States to begin implementing measures to restrict voting rights, which disproportionately impacted Black voters.


As mentioned earlier, an example of this was the 2017 North Carolina State Supreme Court ruling that declared a Republican-designed Voter ID law targeted and discriminated against African-Americans with "almost surgical precision". The Voter ID law was a Republican policy approach to steal African American's right to vote.

The 2013 Shelby County v Holder decision meant that, from this point forward, the protection of voting rights was now no longer federally protected. It was now to be determined on a case-by-case, state-by-state basis until #Congress acts to protect voting rights from groups that have been historically marginalized by racist government policies.


What has been Congress' response to Voter Protections as of 2020?
The #HouseofRepresentatives passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 to bring back protections lost when SCOTUS cut #Section5 in the Shelby case .
Now it’s up to the #Senate to pass this in order to make it law, and that’s unlikely for many reasons, one of which is that the #PresidentTrump's Administration says he will veto this Act if it is presented to him.

4️⃣Which Is How We Got To Today and Georgia’s 7 years of Purging Voters

(And How Republican Voter Suppression May Have Cost Georgia a Democratic Governor in 2018)

What does it mean to "purge" the voter registration rolls?


In many states, once you are registered to vote, you are registered for life until you ask to be unregistered.


In many Republican-led states, the government has decided "if you haven't voted in the last couple of elections, we are removing your name from the list of eligible voters." And in Georgia, this happened and many voters were not notified that they were purged from the voter registration rolls.


These voters showed up to vote in 2018, perhaps even today, only to find out they aren't eligible to vote because their name was removed from the polls and they were never told.


And so, in effect, their right to vote was stolen by the government.

In 2017 in Georgia, the Republican Secretary of State #BrianKemp purged between 85,000 - 100,000 voters from the voter registration rolls prior to the 2018 election, in which he would not only manage the election, but also be the Republican candidate for Governor.


It's important to note that Kemp beat Democrat Stacy Abrams by just under 55,000 votes.








APM Reports: After the Purge







One year later, in December 2019, Republicans purged another 300,000 voters. This has implications for the #2020Election



5️⃣ In 2018, Brian Kemp, who was Georgia’s Secretary of State and the Chair of State Elections, stayed In Both Roles to Manage the Election WHILE Concurrently Running for Governor. (Ignoring clear conflicts of interest and previous good faith acts from former Secretaries of State that stepped down when they were in similar positions.)


Let me underscore this.


In the 2018 elections, the Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp who was also the chair of the State Elections Board, ran for Governor on the Republican ticket. That means he managed the same election that he was a candidate in.


The same election in which he made decisions related to voter purging.


Governor Kemp is being sued: a federal judge has said that Brian Kemp, while he was Georgia's Secretary of State, did not notify voters of their change in voting status, and furthermore, that the purging was influenced by racial bias.


But the elections are over and done with.


What’s the remedy or reparative action for Black voters, Democrats, and ultimately, Democracy?

Essence: Legal Ruling May Force Georgia Gov. To Reveal How He 'Stole" Election From Stacey Abrams



6️⃣ Since the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, Georgia Republicans have purged 1.3 million voters.


In Georgia, from 2013 (remember, that’s when Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was gutted) to 2017, 13% of Georgia voters were purged from the voter registration rolls.


1.3 million voters.


Since 2013, Georgia has closed 214 polling places. In 2020, in Metro Atlanta, where the majority of Black voters live, there were 80 fewer polling places for the June 9 primary which left 16,000 active registered voters from 5 precincts having to vote in 1 polling place.

Link: https://letamericavote.org/news/blog/2018/georgias-use-it-or-lose-it-voter-purge-forced-more-than-850000-eligible-voters-off-the-rolls/?fbclid=IwAR0nbIHQz7i8u5XxVgwYkqizTee2SQ0xewhK24-nkWuzZGsPpaCS8TNrILc



This has major implications for the 2020 Elections.


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This context I laid out is really important.


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Because long lines and disenfranchised voters aren’t about just today.


This was a long history of consolidated power that refused to give it up, and countless attempts to maintain that power and control.


And this is the ringing of a bell. A sounding of an alarm about a major threat to our Democracy that requires Federal intervention, with none in sight.
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