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Black Voters Matter Scandal in Georgia Attracts a Lot of Publicity
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Black Voters Matter Scandal in Georgia Attracts a Lot of Publicity

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, GEORGIA – October 23, 2018

On Monday, October 15, the first day of early voting for Georgia, a “big black bus” arrived to the Jefferson County Leisure Center, “Black Voters Matter” and “The South is Rising” written on either side of it.

African American senior citizens were being offered a ride to the polling station on the bus.

But after getting on the bus, the roughly 40 seniors were told that they had to get off before going to vote. The director of the center made a call to Jefferson County Administrator Adam Brett once she realized the group wanted to do more than just tour the bus.

The bus, run by the group Black Voters Matter, was preparing to depart from a senior center operated by Jefferson County when the center’s director said they needed to disembark, said LaTosha Brown, a co-founder of Black Voters Matter.

Jefferson County Leisure Center Director Tammie Bennett said of the situation, “I’m thinking it was going to be maybe like a 10-15 minute thing where they just tell them to get out and vote.” Administrator Brett added, “That’s a political event where during early voting, in a very contentious election, that’s a political event and we don’t allow that.” He added that a citizen told him the bus was at the center.

Black Voters Matter is encouraging African-Americans in Jefferson County, which is roughly 53% black, to vote in the election, but the county government considered the event political because Jefferson County Democratic Party Chairwoman Diane Evans helped organize it, County Administrator Adam Brett said in a statement.

On Wednesday, October 17, Jefferson County officials released a statement in response to an incident: 

Jefferson County operates a Senior Center that provides meals and entertainment to senior citizens in Jefferson County three days per week. The Jefferson County Board of Commissioners has a long standing practice of not allowing political activities during normal business hours or at County sponsored activities. These senior citizens are under the complete care and supervision of Jefferson County while they are at the Senior Center. Jefferson County Administration felt uncomfortable with allowing Senior Center patrons to leave the facility in a bus with an unknown third party. Additionally, the event in question that took place at the Jefferson County Senior Center was led by the President of the Jefferson County Democratic Party and as such was considered a political event. No seniors at the Jefferson County Senior Center were denied their right to vote. In fact, Senior Center staff routinely arrange Jefferson County Public Transit to transport senior citizens to vote. Jefferson County invites and encourages all registered voters to vote from October 15-November 2 from 8 AM to 5 PM, October 27 from 9 AM to 4 PM and on election day November 6 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Jefferson County Administrator Adam Brett declined to comment further on the issue, standing behind what they told NewsChannel 6 on Wednesday, that the seniors were not allowed on the Black Voters Matter bus because the group was not vetted, had no waivers, and the event was political. Evans said she believes the entire ordeal is a personal attack against her.

District 1 Commissioner Gonice Davis also said he spoke with Evans on Sunday morning. He said they spoke about a religious organization helping the seniors with resources following Tropical Storm Michael, but nothing about voting or putting the seniors on a bus to vote. He added that Evans called back upset after the administrator said the seniors could not ride the bus to vote, News channel 6 reported.

Local Democratic Committee Chair Diane Evans said she invited Black Voters Matter to the center and sent an email to the center director Sunday night after 10:00 to allow the organization to come.

www.wjbf.com

But the email says nothing about taking the seniors away on a bus.

Black Voters Matter, an advocacy group that helped Doug Jones win his Senate seat in Alabama late last year, is currently on a bus tour dubbed “The South is Rising.” The group is traveling across seven southern states, undertaking voter outreach and engagement, ThinkProgress wrote, reporting the incident.

In 2017, ThinkProgress linked the “Black Matters US” website targeting black Americans to Russian efforts to influence the US Election.

On October 21, the growing scandal received a tremendous amount of publicity. One of the organizers of the get-out-the-vote effort, LaTosha Brown, went on CNN to directly call out the racism inherent in this attempt at voter suppression.

“This was not a senior facility that people were residents. This was a community center where people go for activities. These are seniors who are able bodied, who come on their own accord, of their own choice,” Brown said on CNN. “Here is one person who thinks he can interfere with [that] process and make a decision for people better than they can make for themselves.”

“When we talk about voter suppression, there’s a spectrum of that,” Brown added. “Anytime you’re doing anything to interfere with someone’s choice, to be able to go freely vote on their own will, that is a form of voter suppression.”

“The seniors were so resolved. They said: ‘We’re going to vote. Nobody’s going to stop us,’ “ Brown said on Tuesday. “It wasn’t the first time someone has denied them or tried to prevent them from voting.”

As the midterms approach, Georgia has been plagued by accusations of voter suppression, including its attempts to use “exact match” requirements to bar anyone from voting whose voter information doesn’t perfectly match that on their Social Security and driver’s license. Advocacy groups have sued Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp—who is currently running against Democrat Stacy Abrams for governor—over the policies. Kemp’s office apparently also sent Brown and other organizers a letter, informing them that the bus incident is under investigation, SplinterNews reports.

“Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp will be a great governor,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “He has been successful at whatever he has done, and has prepared for this very difficult and complex job for many years. He has my Strong Endorsement.”

Abrams’ response was:

“If success is suppressing eligible voters, leaking our Social Security numbers, and pointing a shotgun at a child on TV, I’ll pass.

I’ll take Medicaid expansion, excellent public schools, and good-paying jobs. Donate if you agree:[…]”

Recent polls show Georgia’s gubernatorial race remains in a near deadlock. According to Atlanta’s WSBTV, an Oct. 11 Atlanta Journal-Constitution-WSBTV poll found Kemp with a narrow lead at 47.7% compared to Abrams’ 46.3%. The state’s Libertarian candidate, Ted Metz, trailed behind with just 2.3%. But according to the network, Kemp’s 1.4% point lead could be “statistically insignificant” given that the poll has a margin of error of 2.8%.

If elected, Abrams would be the first black woman to serve as governor in the United States.

Author: USA Really