Winning an election has always been about getting your voters to the polls in greater numbers than your opponent gets their voters to the polls. There is nothing sinister about this. That’s just politics. It only becomes a problem when one side tries to rig the system to put their opponent at a disadvantage.
There is a long history of voter suppression in this country, poll taxes and tests being some of the more blatant attempts of our past. The Constitution originally only granted voting rights to land owning white males. We have continued to expand the suffrage over our history. While there is more that can be done, we have made great progress.
Unfortunately, in recent years we have started to slide backwards. What’s worse is that our slide is fueled by a desire to disenfranchise select groups of voters in an attempt to skew the electorate in favor of one party and ideology over another. This is compounded when it is branded as a way to prevent voter fraud. To listen to the proponents, you would think voter fraud is rampant, yet it is extremely rarte in this country
The recent efforts to suppress the votes of People of Color and the less advantaged in our society are well documented. The gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court has allowed some states to turn back the clock on voting rights. Voter ID laws that disproportionately disenfranchise minorities, the poor, and the elderly have put an unnecessary burden on many voters.
Here in Georgia, we have seen huge purges of the voter rolls, most of which have come in communities that would likely vote contrary to the party in power. We should be expanding the voter rolls, not reducing them. The State’s highest elections official, the Secretary of State, is a candidate for Governor. This is not unheard of in Georgia. Both parties have had sitting Secretaries of State running for Governor. What IS uncommon is that THIS Secretary of State hasn’t stepped down. How can you be sure of the integrity of an election being administered by one of the candidates?
Just this week we saw the Randolph County Board of Elections consider consolidating nine voter precincts into two. Randolph County is poor, rural, and majority African American. What was even more insidious was the fact that they were pitting one minority group against another. Their reason for the consolidation was because of the polling places not being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. They were pitting the African American community against the Disabled Community.
Luckily, both sides saw through the charade. While there are ADA compliance issues with the polling places that need to be addressed, they have been know since 2012. Suddenly the Board is worried about them after six years? People came together and fought this injustice and, thanks to lots of public pressure, the Board rejected the plan.
Randolph County shows that when injustices are brought into the light of day, people will oppose them, but it also shows that we must maintain our vigilance in protecting the precious right to vote. I will do everything in my power to not only preserve the voter protections we already have, but to look for ways to expand access to voting for ALL Georgians.