The 2018 gubernatorial election in Georgia was the most hotly contested in the nation. Stacey Abrams inspired many as the country’s first black woman major party nominee, an unabashed progressive in the Deep South, and as a fearless voting rights champion competing against one of the staunchest defenders of voter suppression. From the very beginning, Former House Minority Leader Abrams was very clear that she would win her race by expanding the electorate and bringing in groups that had long been ignored because it was presumed they would not vote. Her reasoning was that they did not vote because they had not been asked. I worked as an organizer during the last three months of the campaign and was a witness to exactly that. I had hundreds of contacts with voters who had no idea an election was going on, had never heard of Leader Abrams, but were intrigued that they were being contacted by a campaign and I had a high success rate of getting commitments from these voters to vote for her by the end of our conversations. Having lived in Georgia my entire life, organizing for Stacey Abrams was the first time in an election that I felt I was voting for more than just myself, I usually thought of my vote as a personal choice for my best interests, but through thousands of phone calls and conversations at people’s doors I realized I was apart of a coalition of voters using over voices to not ask for but demand fundamental change at our State Capitol.
On Election Day, Georgia citizens were bombarded with news of problems at polling places all over the state. There were precincts where power cords for the machines were forgotten, where there were not enough machines to accommodate long lines of voters that should have been anticipated after a robust early vote, and where polling officials were denying legitimate voters provisional ballots because there were not enough to go around and so if everyone could not have one then no one could. This malfeasance followed weeks of calls for the Republican nominee for Governor to resign from his position of Secretary of State after his office placed 53,000 voter registrations on hold without notifying these voters, and after officials in Gwinnett County had denied lawful absentee ballots because names and signatures were not exact matches with what they had in the system. This disproportionately targeted not only women who had name discrepancies after marriage, but African-American voters, Latino and Asian communities, and other groups that have names that are susceptible to human error when being entered into databases. Despite the culmination of all these horrific events, I was confident in victory. There was record turnout across the state from key constituencies and enthusiasm was high, but that victory would not come to fruition. It was not until after the conclusion of Stacey Abrams’s campaign that I realized that I had watched the blatant robbery of an election in plain sight.
When Leader Abrams ended her campaign on November 16, she did so by refusing to concede the election. She acknowledged that under the law she would not be declared the victor, but highlighted the gross mismanagement of the election. It was during this speech that for the first time I felt that a politician meant it when he or she said that every vote mattered. Many politicians say it as an empty platitude to get people out to vote for them, but once they lose an election they quickly accept the results and offer a conciliatory message to their opponent. Leader Abrams stood firm and demanded that every vote be counted no matter if it helped her or not. As a woman who built her campaign on bringing in hundreds of thousands of people who were wary of and disillusioned by the political process, it was important for her to do just that. Though the Governor-Elect and his team vehemently rebuffed the criticism of how the election was conducted, it is important to know that despite record midterm turnout, voter suppression was rampant. They did not need to keep everyone from voting to secure victory, just enough roadblocks in front of the right people to ensure Stacey Abrams was kept from it. In the months since then, she has emboldened a community of Georgians to fight for fair and free elections. This means an open and transparent voter registration system, uniform rules and regulations for all 159 counties, and hand marked paper ballots that can be audited.
In 2020, there will be a Senate seat up for grabs in the great state of Georgia. Though I worked my heart out for Leader Abrams to be the Governor of Georgia, and had great hopes for what she could do for 10 million Georgians, the work she has done since suspending her campaign showed me that she is meant for something greater. She has been on the frontlines of voter rights her entire career, including when she started an organization that registered 200,000 people of color to vote in Georgia. Across this country, state legislatures are using the law to decrease voter participation and shut others out entirely. This has included closing the only precinct in a predominantly Hispanic town in Kansas, enforcing strict voter ID laws and then proceeding to close DMVs across the rural Black Belt of Alabama, discriminating against Native communities in North Dakota by requiring street addresses to vote, keeping college-aged voters out of the process in Texas by excluding student identifications as a form of Voter ID, and using inherently flawed “exact match” policies to deny lawful ballots right here in Georgia. This conversation must include Stacey Abrams who had to work against the strategic incompetence of a Secretary of State’s office who had a vested interest in keeping her out of the Governor’s Mansion. This is a call for Stacey Abrams to run for the United States Senate, not only is she the best person for this position, but we know she has the organization and infrastructure necessary to expand upon the multi-racial and multi-generational coalition that irrevocably changed Georgia’s electorate in 2018.