Stacey Abrams speaks for then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden at a rally in Atlanta on November 2, 2020. Brynn Anderson / AP hide the caption
Brynn Anderson / AP
Brynn Anderson / AP
For the first time in nearly three decades, the state of Georgia voted to bring a Democrat to the White House. Then came two US Senators from the Democratic Party. And one person central to Georgia’s blue tint is suffrage activist and former lawmaker Stacey Abrams.
Abrams tells All Things Considered that the democratic swing was “extraordinary” but “not entirely surprising,” adding that “the numbers have moved in our favor over the past few years.”
The 2020 election had a historic turnout, but for Abrams the battle to secure the right to vote is just beginning. The Georgia House of Representatives on Monday Passed laws that would restrict early and absentee votes. And 42 other states are also considering bills that would make voting more difficult.
Last year Abrams helped a documentary about the suppression of votersin the past and present. Now all in: The fight for democracy was shortlisted for an Oscar.
Here are some excerpts from the interview.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, There are more than 250 bills in 43 states trying to tighten voting rules, including the one just passed in the Georgia House of Representatives. Proponents of the bill say adding uniform voting times Monday through Saturday will reduce confusion, while Democratic lawmakers say this type of bill discriminates against black voters, who often mobilize on Sundays. Do you agree with this view of these democratic lawmakers that this type of law directly restrains black voters?
Georgia has 159 counties. The largest county has over a million people, the smallest county has 2,500 people, and for the past 15 years we’ve allowed more to be done for bigger places. And here’s why that matters. In the 2020 general election, 107 out of 159 counties were more likely to vote black Georgians than white Georgians on weekends rather than during the week.
Under [the Georgia legislation]This restriction on access to elections will cause disproportionate harm to black voters as they tend to live in larger counties and they tend to live in communities with higher populations.
This is not about uniformity. This is about restricting access because more people showed up in these larger counties in 2020 and changed the outcome of the elections in ways that Republicans do not recognize and want to see repeatedly.
[On Tuesday] The Supreme Court has heard arguments that might do this in two Arizona cases further good the voting rights law of 1965. How concerned are you that this current Conservative Majority Court at 6-3 will help undermine much of the work that you and other activists have done?
I am deeply concerned and sadly saddened by this result. We know that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act was the remaining pillar to protect color communities, as it states that states and local governments are not allowed to pass laws that discriminate against people of color in their ability to vote. The challenge that comes from the section 2 erosion is being able to exempt access if you can pretend that the reason you are taking these steps is not related to the race.
This is important because that is what triggered the 1965 Voting Rights Act. And if we exclude section 2, we return to the post-rebuilding Jim Crow era laws. And that’s not an exaggeration. It’s a straight line through which is one of the reasons All In: The Fight for Democracy is so important because I need people who understand that this is not a new trick. This is the same trick that has been played over and over to deny access to the right to vote to voters who are considered undesirable by the party in power.
Jonaki Mehta and Patrick Jarenwattananon produced and edited the audio interview.