Early voting numbers are off the charts in Georgia. The New York Times reports that “vote totals have increased almost 200 percent at the same point since the last gubernatorial election, according to the independent tracker.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who would be the first female African American governor in U.S. history, is battling both her Republican opponent — Brian Kemp, the Georgia secretary of state — and what she and voting-rights groups claim amounts to a Jim Crow-like effort to deny African Americans their right to vote. They cite an unprecedented purge of more than 100,000 voters from the rolls (disproportionately among African Americans), a delay in processing voter applications (more than 53,000, also disproportionately from among African American voters) and invalidation of absentee ballots. “And on Monday, news that about 40 black seniors were barred from early voting at the behest of county officials in eastern Georgia’s Jefferson County enraged voting rights advocates, who say such actions could have a chilling effect,” the Times reported.
Multiple legal challenges are underway, but Abrams is not counting on the courts. She has gone to the voters on a bus tour that is part campaign, part revival meeting and part civil-rights celebration. She projects determination, but also a sense of exuberance.
The Post reported on one campaign stop this week:
Quoting from the Bible, Abrams said: “Faith without works is dead. I have faith in all of you, but I need y’all to work. We’ve got to volunteer every single day . . . I need you to make phone calls, knock on doors. I need you to reach out to the people you like and the people you’re mad at.” . . .
Abrams said that Kemp has “made it his life’s mission to create the architecture of voter suppression, but we won’t let him win.” When Kemp decided to run for governor, Abrams said, he should have stepped down from his post as secretary of state, as she did from her seat in the legislature.
She vowed to “work as hard as we can to get all 53,000” voters whose status is in limbo to show up to the polls and try to cast ballots. In the meantime, she told the audience, “I need all of you to find 53,000 additional votes just in case. This election is about history. We are talking about our voices and our votes because this is our time.”
The race is polling within the margin or error, but Abrams has plainly tapped into a spirit of defiance. Her voters are waging an emotional battle against voter suppression and the Trump era of overt racism. Yes, Abrams is running on Medicaid expansion and other issues, but her candidacy is taking on a symbolic value that goes well beyond one state and one governor. The last time we saw anything like this, the first African American won the presidency.
For all that — and for reaffirming a message of hope and unity — we can say well done, Ms. Abrams.