By Andrea Young , Executive Director | September 11, 2019
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s editorial (Marietta Daily Journal, 9/10/19) misrepresents the reality of voter suppression in Georgia. Citizens, volunteers, and advocacy organizations across Georgia have fought mightily and worked diligently to achieve the voter registration and voter participation levels in Georgia that the Secretary of State references in his op ed. While Georgia has taken steps that enable voting overall, that does not negate the persistent efforts to suppress voting in the historically excluded communities that are protected by the Voting Rights Act. Contrary to the Secretary’s assertions, the increases in registration and voting do not refute the reality of pervasive voter suppression tactics used by officials in Georgia — voter suppression the ACLU of Georgia has fought relentlessly.
The ACLU of Georgia advocates for three principles of constitutionally sound elections: 1. Every citizen should be allowed to vote; 2. Every citizen should have easy access to voting, and 3. Every vote should count the same. The State of Georgia fails to meet these standards.
Throughout the 2018 election cycle, the ACLU of Georgia brought legal action against the State and local governments–run by both Democrats and Republicans–for wrongly purging 160,000 registered voters from the active voter rolls, attempting to close polling locations in predominantly African-American communities, failing to process absentee ballots properly, using government resources to misdirect voters to Secretary of State’s campaign website, illegally rejecting absentee ballot requests, failing to provide bilingual ballots in Spanish and English or draw fair school board district lines that comply with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and providing misleading voter registration forms on the Secretary of State’s website.
The ACLU of Georgia prevailed in every instance. The federal courts ruled in favor of our clients EVERY time. Nevertheless, our efforts could not reach everyone whose right to vote was denied.
In the legislature, we helped to defeat bills that would have rolled back voting hours inside the city of Atlanta. We also helped to defeat another bill that would have reduced weekend early voting throughout the state. And we introduced a package of voting rights reforms that accompanied the voting machines law that the General Assembly passed.
We blocked attempts to gerrymander districts by both Democrats and Republicans and supported legislation to create a redistricting process to fight the gerrymandering that allows politicians to pick their voters and silence the voices of urban voters and voters of color.
Just this week, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution reported that since 2012, 214 polling places have been closed across the state of Georgia, making it more difficult to cast ballots in many African-American communities.
Sadly, voter suppression in Georgia is real. We will continue to fight until every Georgia citizen is assured easy access to the ballot — and every vote counts the same.