By Barrington M. Salmon
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – In the end, Stacey Abrams said voter suppression and systematic voter manipulation by former Secretary of State and Governor-Elect Brian Kemp tilted the Georgia governor’s race in his favor.
After 10 days of legal, electoral and other maneuvering, Abrams bowed out of the race, ending a combative and bitter contest in her bid to become the first Black woman governor in the country.
An attorney, author and former minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, Abrams called Kemp “the architect of voter suppression” and accused him of purging voters rolls, delaying and denying new registrations and generally disenfranchising African-American and other non-white voters.
“I acknowledge that former Secretary of State Brian Kemp will be certified as the victor in the 2018 gubernatorial election,” said Abrams at a Nov. 16 press conference. “But to watch an elected official who claims to represent the people in this state baldly pin his hopes for election on suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling.”
Abrams castigated Kemp – who served since 2012 as secretary of state until he stepped down last week – making it clear that she refuses to act as if the election was normal, while pointing out that she wasn’t making a concession speech.
She castigated Kemp for the “deliberate and intentional” voter suppression he employed and promised to continue to fight for fair and comprehensive elections.
“Pundits and hyper-partisans will hear my words as a rejection of the normal order. You see, I’m supposed to say nice things and accept my fate,” she said. “They will complain that I should not use this moment to recap what was done wrong or to demand a remedy. You see, as a leader I should be stoic in my outrage and silent in my rebuke but stoicism is a luxury and silence is a weapon for those who would quiet the voices of the people. And I will not concede because the erosion of our democracy is not right.”
Investigative Journalist Greg Palast filed an affidavit on November 15 in federal district court in Atlanta in support of the Common Cause Georgia’s case filed against Kemp. Palast said on his website that an expert report from one of his consultants shows that 340,134 voters were wrongly purged from Georgia’s voter rolls – without notice – by Kemp in 2016 and 2017 while Kemp was Secretary of State and preparing his run for Governor.
There are documented efforts of Kemp’s machinations to suppress the vote in investigations by the Associated Press, Mother Jones and other news outlets. Kemp has removed significant swathes of African-Americans, Asians, and Latinos from voter rolls by purging more than 1.5 million voters – almost 11 percent of those registered – from the rolls between 2016 and 2018. He also closed 214 polling stations, the majority of them in poor and non-White neighborhoods.
And using a program called ‘exact match,’ he blocked almost 35,000 Georgia residents from registering from 2013 to 2016. Exact match only grants residents the right to vote if their registrations exactly match information found in state data bases. Registrations aren’t accepted if there is a name difference, a misspelled word or an accent. Kemp’s office also put more than 50,000 voter registrations on hold by using the unreliable “exact match” system. Fully 70 percent of those are Black.
Abrams’ election run electrified African-Americans around the state. And the Black-woman-powered ground game brought Abrams to within two percentage points of beating Kemp.
“We’ve been working in Georgia all year,” said Melanie Campbell, president/CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. “Sisters laid the groundwork. We’ve been doing voter registration. While the focus has been on leaders, this was a coalition effort of women like Helen Butler of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, who was all over the state. We were phone banking since the primaries calling Black women. People like Deborah Scott and Felicia Davis and groups like the Southern Black Women’s Initiative and Shirley Sherrod were canvassing neighborhoods, developing voter profiles and putting women together.”
Campbell said the emergence of Donald Trump, the rise in hate crimes and the ratcheting up of racism are of most concern to Black women. This has animated their resistance to Trump and the Republican agenda.
“The whole notion is that our lives are at stake. It’s in our DNA,” she said. “There is a drumbeat, a drumbeat knowing that this country is in peril. We’re seeing, feeling and hearing it. It took a minute for folks to tune in.”
Campbell said campaigns like Abrams represents a power shift and will have important implications for African-Americans in 2020 and beyond.
In Florida, after a flurry of lawsuits, uncertainty about the fate of uncounted ballots, and two South Florida counties failing to meet the deadline, a machine recount determined that Tallahassee Mayor was unable to catch Republican Ron DeSantis in that gubernatorial contest. Gillum trailed DeSantis by 33,683 votes, a net gain of one vote for Gillum from the unofficial results reported last week. Of eight million votes cast, the margin was a mere 0.41 percent.
Despite the apparent insurmountable lead, Gillum would not concede and called for counting to continue. His lawyer hinted at a lawsuit.
“A vote denied is justice denied — the State of Florida must count every legally cast vote,” Gillum said in published reports. “As today’s unofficial reports and recent court proceedings make clear, there are tens of thousands of votes that have yet to be counted. We plan to do all we can to ensure that every voice is heard in this process.”
There grew a cacophony of calls for Gillum to concede. So far, he has refused. The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board has called him “ungracious,” saying that his refusal to concede is “a display of ill-grace that won’t help his political future in Florida.”
Ultimate, he conceded saying he will not stop working for fair elections in Florida.
“We wanted to make sure that every vote, including those that were undervotes and overvotes –as long as it was a legally cast vote – we wanted those votes to be counted,” Gillum said.
He concluded, “We also want you to know that even though this election may be beyond us, that this – although nobody wanted to be governor more than me – this was not just about an election cycle…This was about creating the kind of change in this state that really allows for the voices of everyday people to show up again in our government, our state, and our communities.”
This story includes information from The Tallahassee Democrat, gregpalast.com and NPR.