Stacey Abrams Spearheads Campaign Against Voter Suppression


It's morning edition from NPR news I'm David green and I may tell Martin after the chaos of the Iowa caucuses there is new scrutiny about how the US conducts selections when you partisan voting rights group is focusing on elections in swing states this year it's called fair fight and it's led by Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams Abrams got a lot of national attention in two thousand eighteen after she lost a close race for governor in an election that was clouded by allegations of voter suppression here's an here's Debbie Elliot a few thousand volunteers are spending a Saturday morning in a hotel conference room in Macon Georgia for a boot camp of sorts on voter suppression good morning in everybody Hillary Holly is organizing director for fair fight action the group that's waging a campaign against voter suppression in the twenty twenty election we are walking into year that's going to be exciting little bit stressful we're gonna be working a lot participants call themselves democracy warriors people like whole worker of lane Morgan Johnson make every single cam Johnson is motivated to be here in part because her sister was removed from George's voter rolls under a mass purge of people who have not voted since two thousand twelve or responded to mailed notices from election officials Johnson thinks it's part of a broader strategy to curtail voting rights reducing their opposition don't wanna lose power I mean we're seeing that nation why it's depressing and that's why I'm just trying to be active in a way that I can my parents worked for civil rights in and we're not for going backwards this training is part of an effort launched by Georgia Democrats Stacey Abrams an African American woman who broke new ground in our two thousand eighteen campaign for governor she energized new democratic voters and lost by less than fifty five thousand votes in a largely Republican state there was a record turnout for a mid term election but also hours long waits at some polls election server security breaches and allegations that strict adherence on signature matches dampens participation Abrams says the defeat galvanized her to launch fair fight in the wake of the election my mission was to figure out what works could I do even if I didn't have the title of governor what what can I do to enhance to protect our democracy because the voting rights is the the pinnacle power in our country verified is training grassroots advocates lobbying for new election laws and arguing in federal court the George's election system is unconstitutional Abrams says long lines precinct closures and purging voter rolls are all barriers that disproportionately impact minority voters most of us understand voter suppression as the nineteen sixties images of Billy clubs and hoses and dogs barking aggressive interference but in the twenty first century voter suppression looks like administrative errors it looks like user error it looks like mistakes but it is just is intentional and just as insidious George's current secretary of state Republican Brad wraps and Parker acknowledges there were some problems because of the high turnout in two thousand eighteen but rejects the notion that cleaning up voter rolls is an attempt to gain partisan advantage no what we're trying to do is make sure that the you know Lexus are clean fair and accurate this is something that has been going on in Georgia long before Republicans were in charge in Georgia and courts have upheld the state's authority to purge the voter last after fair fight suit but other election related lawsuits are pending attorney Jack Evans is chairman of the Georgia chapter of the Republican National lawyers association Georgia is ground zero for election law Evans says the focus is here because Georgia is becoming competitive the reality is you know George's changing and there's a lot of transplants coming in from the west coast and the northeast and there's also changing demographics so I think it is time for Republicans to grow the tent but I definitely think it's woke up a lot of Republicans in Georgia now Abrams is expanding fair fight to reach in hopes of putting other states in play she recently traveled to Florida for a town hall with college students to talk about ways they could protect their vote for verifying voter registration for learning how to ask for a provisional ballot if you're turned away at the polls political scientist Andrea Glaspie of Emory University says there are a lot of national groups doing voting rights work but fair fight stands out because it's been able to use the energy around Abrams electoral defeat to try to reap benefits for other Democrats in this election cycle her story was compelling she got a lot of attention by being the first black woman to be nominated by a major party for gubernatorial seat and she was really smart and you know strike while the iron was hot in order to play that type of organization together fair fights political action committee is raising the millions of dollars including a five million dollar contribution from democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg and it's pumping some of that money into battle ground states early fair fight C. E. L. Lauren grow Largo says the idea is to beef up the democratic ground game around voting we're in the mission of making sure our full citizenry can vote we also happen to think that when all Americans are able to vote Democrats win she says they've invested more than a million dollars and sent dozens of staffers in eighteen states to ramp up democratic voting rights infrastructure things like establishing voter hot winds and creating voter protection teams to be in place for the primaries so they can prepare for the general election gathering information and data what is order struggle with when election administrator struggle with what support are they gonna need critics say fair fight is a vehicle for Stacey Abrams political aspirations Abrams counters that she's been doing civil rights work her entire career but acknowledges our interest in higher office including the presidency I see myself as a warrior for democracy but I'm also someone who has been training my entire life to do more as for this year's race Abrams hasn't endorsed any of the democratic presidential candidates but says show welcome a phone call from the eventual nominee when they're looking for a running mate Debbie Elliot NPR news

Coming up next