Sprinkled among the millions of people in Georgia who were forced to wait as long as four hours just to cast their ballots were devoted African-American voters, many of whom couldn’t afford to take off that much time from work. But the chance at helping to make history by electing Stacey Abrams as the country’s first Black woman governor was something they just couldn’t pass up.
In the face of numerous obstacles from the big bag of racist tricks intended to suppress the Black vote, the display of perseverance was impressive, LaTosha Brown, a co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, told NewsOne this week.
“I am very, very proud of Black people. Black folks did the thing,” said Brown who spent Election Day in Georgia helping to monitor and address voter suppression efforts.
Brown glowingly recalled how African-American voters came out in droves to elect dozens of candidates who looked like them and to vote for tangible change across the country, but especially in places such as Georgia, Florida and Tennessee.
“The turnout, the energy, the way I saw Black people working on the ground — listen, we did our part,” she added.
Early figures supported Brown’s turnout observations. Across the country, overall turnout was at a 50-year high, according to NPR. More than 47 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot.
Exit poll figures also showed that, indeed, African-Americans turned out in significant numbers. Black voters accounted for about 12 percent of the overall turnout—comparable to the previous midterm high of 13 percent in 2014, ABC News reported.
Although several Black candidates made history, including Lucy McBath, Ayanna Pressley and Jahana Hayes, two of the biggest prizes have so far eluded Black voters. Andrew Gillum, who was competing to become Florida’s first Black governor, failed to win his race, while Abrams in Georgia was pushing for a recount or runoff election after a close race riddled with voter suppression.
“Don’t write us off. We ain’t out the game yet,” Brown stated with deep conviction, adding that those two races were still major victories in Southern states stained by a blood-soaked history of white supremacy.
Brown also counted the passage of two key amendments — one each in Florida and Nashville — among the key victories for African-Americans. “They were some key critical wins that Black voters absolutely played a significant role,” Brown said.
Amendment 4 automatically restored voting rights to 1.4 million ex-felons across Florida. Under the state’s felon voting ban, approximately 21.5 percent of African Americans couldn’t vote before Tuesday.
In Nashville, Amendment 1 created a new citizen-led panel to hold the police accountable. Voters overwhelmingly passed the amendment after “a decades-long push from Black leaders in the city,” the Tennessean reported.
Those successes didn’t come easy because of widespread voter suppression efforts against the Black people.
From her vantage point at ground zero, Brown witnessed many of the suppression attempts in real-time. At a polling station that normally has 30 voting machines, there were just 15, she recalled. There were places that didn’t have power cords for voting machines and others where aging voting equipment was inoperable. Brown said numerous Black voters told her they pressed Abrams’ name before their machines instead selected the name of her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, who was overseeing the election as secretary of state.
“I’m from Alabama where they are experts at voter suppression and intimidation strategies,” Brown said. “I’ve never seen anything like I witnessed in Georgia.”
As a voting rights activist, she has demanded from officials to know why n 2018 Black people were still being mistreated at the polls and required to overcome voting rights obstacles in a nation supposed to be a democracy.
“Where is the support from the freaking government, so that our votes are fucking counted?” she demanded. “Why is it a struggle for us to cast our damn vote?”