In this week’s episode, we sit down with Hillary Holley from Fair Fight to discuss the 2018 gubernatorial election that had the whole nation watching. We cover a variety of topics, including the tactics utilized by Brian Kemp’s office to suppress minority voters in Georgia, the ensuing litigation spearheaded by Stacey Abrams, and the hope for the future of Georgia elections.
According to Hillary, Abrams knew early on that the radically rightwing, Trump-supporting Brian Kemp could become the Republican nominee for the 2018 election, and suspected that voting rights would quickly become an issue. A voter protections system was quickly put into place via a tipline, and thousands of stories poured in. When Kemp refused to step down from his position as Secretary of State, the office that directly oversees the election process for all 159 counties in the state of Georgia, a distinct ethical boundary was crossed, and those thousands of collected anecdotes quickly became unmistakable evidence of calculated voter suppression.
The backlash was immediate, but it was not until the Randolph County scandal the national media thrust Georgia’s voter suppression crisis into the spotlight. Kemp’s office wanted to close 7 of the 9 voting polls in Randolph, a majority black county, and though thankfully this did not come to pass, a slew of other voter suppression measures did. An AJC investigation revealed the closure of 214 voting precincts in Georgia under Kemp’s administration, and the implementation of “exact match” laws left 53,000 votes either pending or tossed out altogether. The 2018 election marked a record high number of provisional ballots, and clusters of these emerged most notably in areas with high populations of people of color.
Such egregious acts of voter suppression leave many wondering how such sweeping measures are even legal -- but at one time, Hillary notes, they were not. After the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, states with a history of discriminatory voting practices were barred from making changes to the voting process without first notifying the Department of Justice. That all changed in 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down a key section of the original leslation, citing a “change in circumstances,” and thereby allowing states to rewrite voting laws without any federal oversight. Almost immediately, Kemp’s office began to do exactly that.
Fair Fight is fighting on three fronts; the impending lawsuit, which is a response to an unquestionably corrupt 2018 gubernatorial election process; the watchdogging of the Georgia Legislature, ensuring elected officials do not roll back on any voter rights currently in place; and the advocacy of a fair election process, meaning more efficient machines, longer voting hours, better training for poll workers, and the expansion of access for all voting Georgia citizens.
As Kelly so profoundly points out, it is impossible to have been through the 2018 election without seeing firsthand how overwhelming, chaotic, frustrating, and altogether broken the system is in its current form. However, we are not without hope. Hillary and Fair Fight have confidence that change may be on the horizon in the form of more comprehensive federal oversight, as well as the standardization of voting practices across counties. And with Georgia now officially recognized as a purple state (and the number one battleground state in the nation) a blue wave may very well be on its way for the State Legislature. To quote Hillary’s words, “FYI, we did win. We didn’t come close, we fucking did it. We just have to do it again.” And if Georgia voters can keep that fire lit within them by keeping Abram's campaign going, that may certainly be the case.