Georgia’s Long History of Voter Suppression
COMMENTARY

December 30, 2020by Rev. Jesse Jackson
Sen. David Perdue (R-Georgia) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Georgia) listen to Vice President Mike Pence deliver remarks at a "Defend the Majority Rally" in Canton, Georgia in support of their campaigns on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 in Canton, Georgia. (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Now that Donald Trump’s baseless lies about voter fraud have been summarily dismissed by the courts, perhaps some attention can be paid to the true threat to free and fair elections: not voter fraud but systemic and massive voter suppression. Voter suppression, not voter fraud, could have critically important effects in Senate runoff elections in Georgia that will determine which party controls the majority in the U.S. Senate.

In Georgia, voting rights groups, including the Rainbow Push Coalition and the Black Votes Matter Fund, have filed a lawsuit challenging the wrongful purge of nearly 200,000 voters from the voting rolls over the last two years. We are seeking, with the aid of counsel provided by the National Bar Association, injunctive relief to reinstate these voters prior to the January 5 Senate runoff races.

As a September report from the Georgia American Civil Liberties Union states, the voters purged are likely to be “young voters, voters of lower income and citizens of racial groups that have been denied their sacred right to vote in the past.” With Republicans in control of the state, it isn’t surprising that these are voters who are likely to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Nor is it surprising that the state chose not to use a licensee of the U.S. Postal Service — as required by law — to carry out the mailing designed to confirm that the voters were no longer at the address. Instead, it was done by a one-person firm located in Nebraska.

An independent analysis of over 300,000 voters purged from the rolls after 2018 showed that over 60 percent wrongfully lost their right to vote because of an incorrect assumption that they had changed their address. Too often, these voters never discover that they have been purged until the time to vote when it is too late.

The ACLU and Greg Palast, the independent investigator who discovered the wrongful purges, tried repeatedly to get the Georgia Secretary of State to agree to meet to review the proof of unjustified purges. After receiving no reply, voting rights groups decided that we had no choice but to file the lawsuit.

Georgia has a long history of voter suppression, dating back to the post-Civil War period when the Ku Klux Klan used widespread violence to intimidate black and Republican voters in order to re-establish white supremacy. Georgia was one of the states that perfected Jim Crow laws to limit black votes. Now, as Reverend William Barber II notes, “Jim Crow did not retire; he went to law school and launched a second career. Meet James Crow, Esquire.”

Georgia has employed all of the modern techniques of voter suppression. It has closed polling places disproportionately in areas of black concentration, forcing voters to wait in lines for hours to cast a vote. It has repeatedly purged the voting rolls, striking far more voters off than the average state across the country. It required “exact match” voter signatures on registrations, with up to 80 percent of those disqualified people of color (a lawsuit brought that ploy largely to an end in 2019). When Republicans assumed total control of the state in 2010, the resulting gerrymandering was, as Rep. John Lewis stated, “an affront to the spirit and the letter of the Voting Rights Act.”

What has been happening in Georgia has been happening in states under Republican control across the country. Increasingly a minority party in a diverse and young nation, Republicans have been perfecting ways to gain power without capturing a majority of the votes.

In Georgia, a hearing on the lawsuit — backed by a record of independent and authoritative expert analysis of the voters purged from the rolls — was slated for December 10. Hopefully, this injustice can be corrected before the runoff in January.

Donald Trump’s false claims about voter fraud have captured the front pages and immediate attention of courts across the land. Ironically, the authoritative challenge to brazen voter suppression has received far less attention. In Georgia and elsewhere, it will take constant attention, citizen mobilization and litigation to challenge the increasingly sophisticated efforts to suppress the vote.


You can write to the Rev. Jesse Jackson in care of this newspaper or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @RevJJackson.

©2020 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Opinions

Politics and Governing Should Be Boring
Opinions
Politics and Governing Should Be Boring

A lot of my friends on both sides of the aisle are eloquently touching on the meaning of Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol, so I’m going to try and cover things I’m not seeing in the news but that should be considered. First, when the president and... Read More

So What Now?
Opinions
So What Now?
January 10, 2021
by Leonard Pitts

So what now? A few things, actually. But before we get to them, we must recognize last week’s insurrectionist rampage at the Capitol for what it was. It is being seen, and not wrongly, as the angry response of delusional right-wingers lied into believing a presidential... Read More

Seditious Members of Congress Must Be Held Accountable
Opinions
Seditious Members of Congress Must Be Held Accountable
January 4, 2021
by Robert B. Reich

I’ve been in or around politics for over a half-century now, and I never imagined how low and loony the Republican Party would become. Twelve Republican senators say they will object to President-elect Joe Biden’s victory on Wednesday when Congress meets to formally certify it. They... Read More

I Miss Going to the Movies
Opinions
I Miss Going to the Movies
December 30, 2020
by John Kass

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need,” said Marcus Tullius Cicero. Old Marcus could have been talking about coping with these pandemic lockdowns, but he wasn’t. Happily, I have a home library, but no garden. And I can’t possibly go... Read More

Georgia's Long History of Voter Suppression
Opinions
Georgia's Long History of Voter Suppression

Now that Donald Trump's baseless lies about voter fraud have been summarily dismissed by the courts, perhaps some attention can be paid to the true threat to free and fair elections: not voter fraud but systemic and massive voter suppression. Voter suppression, not voter fraud, could... Read More

Trump’s Presidency Has Tested the Broken Windows Theory
Opinions
Trump’s Presidency Has Tested the Broken Windows Theory
December 28, 2020
by Robert B. Reich

Most of the 74.2 million Americans who voted to reelect Donald Trump — 46.8 percent of the votes cast in the 2020 presidential election — don’t hold Trump accountable for what he’s done to America. Their acceptance of Trump’s behavior will be his vilest legacy. Nearly... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top