BY CLYDE HUGHES, AC JosepH Media
When I first read about how Jefferson County officials in Georgia ordering African-American senior citizens off a bus that was scheduled to take them to the polls and vote, I thought what many others must have thought around the country – is that even legal?
Yet, these county officials found a way to do it and got away with it in the most obvious sign yet of voter suppression in Georgia not seen since the days of Jim Crow.
Why were these county officials so worried about one bus at a senior citizens center going to vote on the first day of early voting in Georgia?
You see, Stacey Abrams is fighting to become the first African-American to win a gubernatorial election EVER in the Deep South in her race against Republican Brian Kemp. In the latest poll by WXIA-TV ending Oct. 10, Kemp is hanging on to a slim 47-45 lead, well within the poll’s 4.9 percent margin of error.
Needless to say every vote is going to count. Republicans in the state, including Kemp as secretary of state, are trying hard to make sure some don’t get that opportunity. More about that later.
The bus taking the senior citizens in Louisville, Georgia to the polls was being run by the organization Black Voters Matter. The organization is nonpartisan and does not advocate for any candidates.
The senior citizens had boarded the bus and excited to practice their civic duty when they were ordered off by Jefferson County administrator Adam Brett. His excuse was laughable.
“Jefferson County administration felt uncomfortable with allowing senior center patrons to leave the facility in a bus with an unknown third party,” Brett said in a statement, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “No seniors at the Jefferson County senior center were denied their right to vote.”
Yes, they were! The bus didn’t take them. No other transportation to take them was available. On this day, Jefferson County denied their citizens to right to vote at the polling place. It truly is that simple. If they were going to Walmart, they would have cared less that they were leaving with a third party. If they were going to bingo, more power to them. But voting? Hell no.
To be fair, Brett claimed he was enforcement of county policy on political activities taking place on county property and the avoidance of potential liability for allowing an unfamiliar external group to escort seniors away from the center.
Democratic Party chairwoman Diane Evans helped organize the event, making it political in nature, Brett claimed. Evans said she helped as a private citizen and kept the party out of it. But beyond Evans mere presence, what makes this political? When has this been enforced before? Why are rides already arranged for seniors who want to vote?
But unless she’s telling them what the vote and accompanying them into the ballot booth, what difference does it make? Getting people, period, to the ballot box, especially in midterm elections is hard work. We should be congratulating and saluting group like Black Voters Matter for getting people to the polls, not emptying their buses like they are doing something illegal.
But suppression of the African-American vote in the south is, well, just old-school politics for places like Georgia. It was announced this week that the State of Georgia placed the registrations of 53,000 voters on hold, largely of African-Americans for the election. Someone should call the secretary of state about that. Oh, it’s Kemp. Never mind.
Georgia’s “exact match” law, which states the voter registration application is complete only if information on that form exactly matches records kept by Georgia’s Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration, stands to disenfranchise many more, especially the poor and young people, who often move and lag behind updating that information.
These are well tried, well-tested voter suppression tactics made specifically for times like these when a Stacey Abrams comes on the ballot with a groundswell of grassroots support that could topple the establishment. The fix was in a long time ago, all the way to down to forcing a group of senior citizens off the bus to keep them from voting.
People in Georgia should be outraged by this. America should be outraged by this. This is an example of the reason why politics is broken in this country. People in power will stoop to the lowest form possible to keep their power.
Ask the senior citizen bus rider in Louisville, Georgia just how low they are willing to go. If can happen there, it can happen anywhere.