• Ryan Vasquez


Can Georgia run a fair election in November?

Stacey Abrams is calling it an unmitigated disaster, saying on NPR that the blame rests "squarely on the shoulders of the Secretary of State," a Republican who ordered millions of dollars be spent on voting machines, the most spent by any state, after the 2018 midterm elections saw such disastrous voting issues. Abrams says there was not enough training on these machines, causing many to shut down, with troubleshooting causing some voters to wait for hours in the pouring rain, some until midnight, to vote.

It was the latest in developments spotlighting Georgia's difficulty in finding fair and convenient ways for all its citizens to get to the polls. Now, with Donald Trump admitting that his biggest concern for his re-election is "vote by mail," and the fraud for which there is no evidence, voting rights is taking center stage again. And for Abrams, it's personal.

In 2018, Abrams ran for Governor as a Democrat, the first woman of color to do so there, and lost a close race to the current Governor, Brian Kemp, by just under 0.5% of the vote. The theory then, which was confirmed in many ways after Georgia's primary on June 9, was that because of a lack of polling places and inadequate staff and trouble shooting, many voters were waiting in line for hours, turned away for various administrative bugs, or never received absentee ballots at all. Kemp went on to be one of the most unequivocally flawed responders to COVID-19, sacrificing life and safety flippantly to open cosmetic services and restaurants well-before even the White House recommended it.

NPR's coverage of the election notes that many who requested absentee ballots did not receive them, so those voters arrived at the polls in person. The polling places, that had been condensed because officials did not expect so much voting to be done in person, were overwhelmed, and understaffed due to the pandemic. Even when those voters got inside after hours of waiting, some in the rain, they were turned away, saying that their absentee status indicated that they had already voted. The volunteers, untrained with the new systems proliferated by the Secretary of State, were unable to reset the systems for hours to allow for these voters to participate.

Officials in Georgia have vowed to check on each step of the election process before November, but what many say is needed is more cash. Some officials have suggested hiring private companies or non-profits to assist regular volunteers with the process, to better train and mobilize around issues to solve them quickly and efficiently.

Abrams has long been an advocate for voting rights, citing a chilling story of a 100-year old black woman in Wisconsin who was denied her vote because she could not produce a birth certificate, something not afforded to her in the Jim Crow South, since she could not be born in a white hospital. The changes over time, she argues, "do not increase security, but decrease accessibility." With just about 13,000 cases of voter fraud reported over the last 20 years, a time when over 6.25 million ballots were cast, you can see the absurdity of stripping millions of Americans of their right to vote for "extra security."

The bottom line is this. Republicans do not want people to vote. When turnout is high, Democrats win. It is when enthusiasm and turnout is low that Republicans can outspend Democrats and fear-monger their way into office. Donald Trump was so unpopular, but won because his opponent was even more so. His strategy? Not to expand his base and unite America, but to offend so many and mar his opponent so badly that people would rather just "stay home."

This year, we may have to stay home. But that doesn't mean we won't be using our voices. And you can bet they're getting louder.

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