Stacey Abrams: Why we should be talking about voter suppression
Updated: 3 days ago
“Effective leaders must be truth seekers and that requires willingness to understand truths other than our own” - Stacey Abrams
Stacey Abrams: The inspiring woman who encouraged 800,000 people to register to vote. Photo credits: Emily List
Stacey Abrams is fighting back for the people who are left out of the narrative
Stacey Abrams, an American politician and voting rights activist, has hit the headlines with her phenomenal registration of 800,000 voters for the 2020 US election. Abrams was the catalyst for the transition of Georgia state from Red (Republican Party) to Blue (Democratic Party), for the first time in nearly 30 years - the last time the state voted for a Democrat president was Bill Clinton, in 1992.
Stacey Abrams is the founder of the Fair Fight Action, which was set up in 2018 to fight back against voter suppression. Fair Fight said that “Voter suppression of voters of colo[u]r and young voters is a scourge our country faces in states across the nation. Georgia’s 2018 elections shone a bright light on the issue with elections that were rife with mismanagement, irregularities, unbelievably long lines and more, exposing both recent and also decades-long actions and inactions by the state to thwart the right to vote”.
There was a monumental Black voter turnout in Georgia in the 2020 election. This was undoubtedly due to Abrams’ extraordinary efforts in registering 800,000 new voters, and early voter encouragement. 49 per cent of new voter registrants were from people of colour, and 45 – 46 per cent were from people under the age of 30. "We knocked on doors in pockets of communities that had never been touched. And we kept coming back," she told CBS News. Abrams’ goal was to ensure everyone's voice was heard, and she did not let her efforts fail. She was joined in this win with the help of four women: Helen Butler, Deborah Scott, Nsé Ufot, and Tamieka Atkins.
Many celebrities, such as, Janelle Monáe, Josh Gad, and Eva Longoria have taken to social media in support of Abrams’ great demonstration of leadership during the US Election.
The 46-year-old Stacey Abrams was born in Wisconsin on 9 December 1973, into a family of eight. Early in Abrams’ life her family moved to Georgia where her parents could pursue their education as Methodist Ministers.
She became a valedictorian in her High School, and one of her first jobs was to write political speeches for a congressional campaign, and this was just at the age of 17.
Abrams became the Deputy City Attorney of Atlanta in 2002. And in 2007, she was rewarded by her efforts and won a seat for the 89th district for the Georgia House of Representatives.
As a prominent member of the Democratic Party, Abrams was also considered as a potential candidate for the Vice-President role, a possible seat beside Joe Biden, in the 2020 US election. However, she was beaten by Kamala Harris, who is now set to become the first female, African American, and South Asian Vice-President in American history.
Stacey Abrams and voter suppression
In 2018, Abrams experienced voter suppression firsthand in her race for Governor of Georgia against Republican rival Brian Kemp. Abrams lost the Georgia’s gubernatorial election by a small margin (less than 2 per cent), and missed the opportunity to become the states first Black female governor. Many believe she was cheated of the job due to voter suppression by Republicans. Abrams said at the time, that “the state failed its voters,” as many votes were not counted and were disenfranchised. “I learned long ago that winning doesn’t always mean you get the prize. Sometimes you get progress, and that counts,” she wrote in her book, Our Time Is Now.
Shockingly, nearly one million people were purged from the election register for the gubernatorial election in 2018. Brian Kemp, Abrams’ opposition and Secretary State at the time, oversaw this purging.
Check out Stacey Abrams' response to ending her candidacy run:
Instead of a legal investigation, Abrams took a more proactive and pragmatic approach and worked on correcting the system. She thought about how she could prevent voter suppression from ever happening again. "I just said it can't happen again. And that has been my mission for the last two years", she told CBS News. Abrams analysed the issues with the voting system and responded with the creation of the Fair Fight Campaign, aimed at tackling voter suppression and ensuring every voice is heard. "What work could I do to enhance or protect our democracy? Because voting rights is the pinnacle of power in our country”, she said to NPR.
Abrams said she wanted to show everyone “what is possible when you encourage communities that are normally left out, to come to the table”. Without her efforts, and that of the Fair Fight Campaign, the voting results of Georgia, could have very much so, remained in the hands of the Republican Party.
What does voter suppression mean?
The voting system in America has often been referred to as ‘Jim Crow Laws 2.0’ with the endless restrictive measures that numerous states have in place, often affecting the voting rights of people from minorities.
Purging: In some states, in particular Ohio, if you have not voted in an election in 6 years, and you have not responded to a postcard the State has sent you, then you are purged from the voting rolls. This means your voting right is removed. Many people have turned up to voting stations and were told that they are not registered and cannot re-register until after the election. If you have moved to a new house, and have not updated your address on the electoral register, then you may not receive this postcard, and may not be notified that you have been purged. A system full of faults.
Voter ID: You are required to have a government ID to vote. A narrow set of IDs are acceptable. You can vote with your gun licence ID but not with your student ID. 35 States had this law in 2020. Members of minorities often don’t have the necessary documents to apply for a government ID and are therefore disenfranchised.
The removal of voting stations also prevents people from voting locally. Some people do not have the means to travel outside their community to vote. If you take away voting stations in minority-majority areas, you are taking away their right to vote. Their voice is being taken from them. In 2018, under Kemp, Georgia closed 8 per cent of its voting stations.
The prohibiting of ex-felons from voting, or in Florida’s case, the ‘pay to play’ system is implemented, giving some felons back their right to vote in exchange for money.
Stacey proved that through the increased turn out of marginalised members of society, their voices will be heard and help bring about change. Much needs to be done to ensure equality in the voting system, and this will not be the last we hear of the efforts of Stacey Abrams. Her contribution to the Election, and her highlighting of voter suppression will have her at the front and center of everyone's minds when it comes to US politics and equality. She is undoubtedly, one of the most inspiring, influential, and remarkable female activists of our generation.
Would recommend checking out:
All In: The Fight for Democracy, a gripping documentary about the fight against voter suppression and the life of Stacey Abrams: