Just like its parent political party, it seems like Georgia Democrats haven’t learned a thing about Republicans and their dirty voter suppression tricks. Which, by the way, seemed to go off without a hitch (or, with plenty of them, depending on who you ask) on Tuesday when certain voters arrived at polling places with either faulty equipment or none at all, resulting in hours-long lines and unbelievable delays to cast ballots in the state’s primary. Those “certain people” just happened to be in Black polling places, according to reports.
Twitter testimonials repeatedly pointed out that the only polling places being affected were the ones in predominately Black precincts. LaTosha Brown, the co-founder of the Black Voters Matter group and a Georgia resident, told Politico that she visited a polling place in a white neighborhood and witnessed voters there “strolling in” as opposed to the Black voters in her precinct who “brought stadium chairs” in anticipation of the apparently selective delays.
Now, can it be proven that any voter suppression took place on Tuesday in Georgia? That answer is unclear since election hours were extended and the tabulation process was ongoing. However, what is clear is that for many Georgians on Tuesday, primary voting was a similar if not worse experience than the 2018 midterm elections, when then-Secretary of State and now-Gov. Brian Kemp successfully rigged the contest in his favor through myriad voter suppression methods.
You remember that election, don’t you? That’s when Kemp as Georgia secretary of state oversaw his own race for governor and openly cheated Stacey Abrams out of becoming the nation’s first Black woman governor. It was a catastrophic election for Democrats that seemed to mirror itself in Tuesday’s apparently successful execution of what was likely a dress rehearsal for Election Day in November.
Many people observing from outside the state are probably wondering how something like this could happen under the vigilant watch of Democratic leadership that all but vowed to prevent a repeat of the debacle that was the 2018 midterm election in Georgia. During an interview days after that midterm election day, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez called Kemp one of the “co-chairs of the voter suppression task force of the Republican Party.” So really, it’s not like Tuesday should have been a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. (It also can’t be forgotten that the Congressional Black Caucus passed a vote of no confidence in Perez days after the 2018 midterm election, so, there’s that.)
Abrams has been fighting tooth and nail against voter suppression as the leader of her Fair Fight organization started after she had the 2018 election stolen from her. The group had raised nearly $15 million by January to promote fair elections, but even all of that hard work appeared to be no match for Tuesday’s election.
Again, none of the apparent trickery on Tuesday should have been a surprise. Back in March of last year, Democrats had Elijah Cummings and the House Oversight and Reform Committee investigate Kemp and his secretary of state successor Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans, and demand they turn over documents related to Georgia’s 2018 midterm election. The committee instructed them to provide information concerning voter roll purges, holds placed on voter registration applications and polling site changes and closings. It was unclear what ever came about from that investigation.
Elections this year were also already battling another major deterrent in the coronavirus, a disease that’s proven more deadly and contagious among Black people than any other group. That would seemingly make mail-in ballots the next natural choice to vote, but that method has come under fire by Republicans who are claiming it as fraud.
Georgia’s not the only place this was happening in, either. It’s just the latest place. It wasn’t that long when Wisconsin served as the nation’s guinea pig for holding physical elections during the heart of a pandemic. The Dairy State’s primary election, too, was a “shit show,” as Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes accurately described it at the time. He was reacting in part to the predictable long lines and inefficient voting methods that are the hallmark of voter suppression efforts. But he was also referring to the concerted effort by the Republican-led Wisconsin State Supreme Court, which at the last minute in April overruled the governor’s order to postpone the state’s primary until Tuesday, June 9.
At the time, the U.S. Supreme Court had also just overturned a lower federal court’s ruling to extend the deadline for the absentee ballot process. It ruled along ideological lines in a 5-4 decision, with the court’s liberal justices being the four that dissented. They believed overturning the lower court’s ruling would lead to “massive disenfranchisement.”
Because of the court’s ruling, voters who applied for absentee ballots but didn’t receive them in time for the primary had no other option than to vote in-person, potentially exposing them to COVID-19 which has killed more than 110,000 people in the U.S. and sickened more than 2 million total as of Tuesday.
The coronavirus is still very much a concern when it comes to voting, statistics show. According to a Gallup poll released last month, “most Americans (64%) favor their state allowing all voters to vote by mail or absentee ballot.” But a closer look at the polling results showed that less than half of the Republicans surveyed wanted mail voting as opposed to 84 percent of the Democrats who were asked.
For perspective’s sake, the Department of Public Health in Georgia on Tuesday reported an increase of more than 750 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.
Considering all of those factors from what Perez referred to as the voter suppression “playbook of the Republican Party,” Democrats better step their game up — and soon — if they want to make sure the general election is not “déjà vu all over again” from 2016, to paraphrase the famous Yogi Berra quote. Otherwise, at this point, it’s naive not to expect a fine blend of the above examples of voter suppression in addition to new techniques to ensure Republican victory not just in Georgia but perhaps in the White House, as well.
After all, this is America.