Commentary: Why Stacey Abrams spoke for N.C., too

Commentary: Why Stacey Abrams spoke for N.C., too
November 29
05:30 2018

By Billy Ball

“Pundits and hyper-partisans will hear my words as a rejection of the normal order. I’m supposed to say nice things and accept my fate. They will complain that I should not use this moment to recap what was done wrong or to demand a remedy. 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.”

– Georgia candidate for governor Stacey Abrams, acknowledging Republican candidate Brian Kemp’s narrow victory this month.

When Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams finally delivered her reluctant concession speech, clad in the same purple she’d somehow made this reddest of states, it seemed an inevitable conclusion.

Yes, Abrams’ platform, as bold and uncompromising a progressive vision as you’re likely to see in the South this or any decade, had lit a fire in her state, supercharging a governor’s race in a place that hadn’t elected a Democrat – much less a black woman – to the post this century.

But in the final weeks of the 2018 campaign, the polls told us time and again that Republican Brian Kemp’s tenuous lead on Abrams would hold, and it was all but certain to hinge on thousands of votes, not millions of votes. It was a discomforting thought to a state troubled by Kemp’s final days as Georgia’s secretary of state, piloting – with maximum prejudice, it seems – voting oversight in his own election.

Since 2012, Kemp’s office had bullishly tossed 1.4 million voter registrations the Republican deemed “inactive,” a purge that spiked last year with almost 670,000 cancellations, including, according to Abrams, a 92-year-old civil rights activist who’d voted in her neighborhood since 1968.

And the state’s “exact match” registration system – in which voter registrations were put on hold pending an exact match with state driver records or the Social Security Administration – left about 53,000 Georgia voters in limbo this election.

The vast majority of those voters were black, an Associated Press analysis found, and thousands were likely unaware that their eligibility remained in doubt with Election Day approaching.

On Election Day, voters in some Georgia precincts dominated by likely Abrams voters faced impossibly long lines and malfunctioning machines.

“Democracy failed Georgia,” Abrams intoned to her stone-faced supporters, before announcing plans to file a sweeping federal lawsuit challenging Georgia’s ham-fisted handling of the embittered 2018 campaign.

Those of us in North Carolina could smell what they were cooking next door. Of course, we know its damnable recipe.

The courts admonished North Carolina legislators two years ago for their studious and scurrilous efforts – via slashed early voting hours, onerous voter ID requirements, and etch-a-sketch, gerrymandered voting districts – to suppress liberal-leaning voters, particularly the votes of 2 million or so black residents.

By any logic, Republicans’ efforts were a smashing success. State Republicans in North Carolina, under the auspices of thwarting imagined Ocean’s Eleven-style voting fraud capers, relentlessly pressed their case for more stringent voter ID laws in the last decade, laws that are likely to impede voters of color and the poor, groups that tend to vote for Democrats.

Republicans will get their wish in a matter of days, after voters succumbed to GOP fearmongering and easily passed a constitutional amendment for voter ID that legislators will hammer into law when they returned to session this week.

Billy Ball, managing editor, joined Policy Watch in January 2016. Article printed from NC Policy Watch:

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