Ep. 8: Abortion Bans and Jim Crow 2.0

Ep. 8: Abortion Bans and Jim Crow 2.0

There is a direct connection between the draconian laws like the abortion bans that the ReTHUGliQans pass and their nationwide epidemic of Jim Crow 2.0 at the ballot box that is stopping U.S. citizens from being able to exercise their sacred and fundamental right to vote. You know, the absolute cornerstone of our democracy, the “of the people, by the people, for the people” democracy. 


Let’s talk Georgia.


Back in 2019, Georgia’s ReTHUGliQans passed its draconian abortion ban by TWO votes  in the state House of Representatives. TWO! The ReTHIGGies needed 90 votes and got 91.


If 2 of those individuals had voted against sending women back to the Dark Ages … Oh my gosh! Things would be so different in that state right now.  


The fact of the matter is that too often you and I end up with these cave-dwelling, knuckle draggers in positions of political power. We shake our heads and ask, “How in the heck does this happen?!” Enter ReTHUGliQan Jim Crow at the ballot box. 


The fact of the matter is that ReTHUGliQans love to pour water on our sacred right to vote. That would be your sacred right to vote and mine. 


Water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink.


When I was the communications director with the ACLU of Georgia, when a reporter would first contact me about the state’s voter laws, I LOVED sharing the following story with them. This story immediately helped each reporter understand the extent to which Jim Crow at the ballot box was very alive and well in the 21st century and in the most underhanded of ways. 


Pouring Water on Your Sacred Right to Vote

In the tiny Georgia town of Thunderbolt – population 2600, local election officials tried to throw 300 citizens off the voter rolls, because the local water bill failed to include the citizens’ names.

Wait! What? What in the heck does a water bill have to do with our sacred, fundamental, and legal right to vote? Well, actually, not a damn thing, honey. Nothing. Nope. Nada. 

In an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ACLU of Georgia legal director Sean J. Young said that “Neither federal nor state law requires voters to have water bills listed in their names in order to cast a ballot.”


Yet, local election officials throughout Georgia oten use water bills to determine whether to kick U.S. citizens off the voter rolls.


That 300 number accounts for 14% of Thunderbolt’s adult population 18 and older. This is crazy, right?!


Can you imagine if every town or city summarily deleted 14% of its voter rolls based on whose names are listed on the water – or any utility – bill? This would have a dramatic impact – a negative impact on our sacred right to vote and the outcome of local, state, and national elections. 


The absurdity of using any utility bill to stop U.S. citizens from exercising their sacred, fundamental legal right to vote is purely outrageous. The very notion boggles the mind.


Aside from the mere stupidity and apparent illegality of this practice, a water bill – or any utility bill – which usually includes ONE name on the account, think of what this would mean in your own household: spouses/partners and other family members 18 and over, students away at college, roommates, or whether your name is on the water bill where you live.

For those of us who rent, well, sometimes landlords include the water bill in the rent.  The water bill itself is in the landlord’s name. This ridiculous practice would wipe many of us off the voter rolls and rob us of our sacred, fundamental legal right to vote. Reducing voter rolls to one vote per household?  Another Jim Crow by mouse click.

Good grief! Where is oversight from the Office of the Secretary of State whose responsibility it is to PROTECT our sacred, fundamental legal right to vote?!

Oh yes. That’s right. These are ReTHUGliQans.

The reason we even know about it is because a very brave woman named Jennifer Hill stepped forward. Hill herself is an army vet and a former police officer. She and her wife own their home that is just around the corner from city hall. She stepped forward not only to protect her own vote but also as she said, if this is happening elsewhere, she wants to help stop it.

It really is so wonderful when someone like Jennifer Hill steps forward to right these ReTHUGliQan, UnAmerican actions.

And that’s exactly what happened when the current ReTHUGliQan governor of Georgia sent his consultant down to Randolph County to close 75% of the polling locations.

Randolph County is located in southwest Georgia. It’s considered a Black Belt county, because 60% of the population is African-American—twice the percentage as that of the rest of the State of Georgia. Eliminating 7 out of 9 polling places in this county would guarantee lowering turnout among African Americans in the gubernatorial election that was happening in November of that year.

That was the year in which Stacey Abrams was on the ballot as the Democratic nominee for governor. And the Secretary of State himself was the ReTHUGliQan nominee. Nothing like overseeing your own election.

 So here’s what happened. A man in Randolph County saw the tiny legal notice in the local paper and contacted the ACLU of Georgia. Our expert legal director, one of the nation’s top voter rights attorneys, sent a letter to the local board of elections informing it that what it is proposing would violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

As the comms director, I immediately notified local, state, and national media. 

Wonderful organizations like New Georgia Project, NAACP, and others organized local residents to pack the few public meetings that were going to be taking place. The day of the vote – which by the way that changed at the last minute from 4pm to 8am in an attempt to do their dirty work outside of the public eye – didn’t matter. We packed that meeting.

Standing room only with local residents and a ton of media from local, TV, and newspapers to the Associated Press, AJC – the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The New York Times, and Washington Post to CNN

And guess what? The local voters of Randolph County won a glorious victory! 


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution – the city’s daily paper – did a wonderful piece on polling location closures.


“The counties hit hardest by precinct closures are often in rural, impoverished areas where decisions about voting locations are made without attracting much public attention.


One-third of Georgia’s counties — 53 of 159 — have fewer precincts [in 2018] than they did in 2012, according to the AJC’s count.


Of the counties that have closed voting locations, 39 have poverty rates that are higher than the state average. Thirty have significant African-American populations, making up at least 25 percent of residents.


The paper reported that “the impact was greater on Black voters than white ones. Black voters were 20% more likely to miss elections because of long distances.


Of course, the ReTHUGliQans know this. They’re not stupid. Their actions are vile.


Rearrange those four letters, and what do you get? Another adjective – evil. They are killing democracy via death by a thousand cuts. 


The paper mentioned that these decisions to close voting locations are often made without attracting much attention. Well, that’s what they attempted in Randolph.


And that’s the same thing that happened with throwing U.S. citizens off the voter rolls based on the ridiculous notion that our name must be on a water bill.


A few months after the Randolph County situation was resolved, we still had a November election in which the Secretary of State himself was running for governor?


And guess what? He was the one who was overseeing these election dirty tricks. He declared himself victory over Stacey Abrams with barely a 55,000-vote lead. 


Well, you think closing 214 voting locations helped him win? You’re damn right it did, because it prevented many voters – specifically those who are Black – from voting. Illegally throwing us off the voter rolls and closing down our polling locations unnecessarily, those are just two of the many tactics that they use to create the nationwide epidemic of Jim Crow at the ballot box that we are experiencing.  


And even when we win, they simply reuse, rehash the tactic elsewhere.


Enter Quitman County.


A few years later, Quitman County a county next door has lots of land and small population. The county had 2 polling locations. Wouldn’t you know it? The county tried to close the precinct primarily used by voters who are Black. 


A few years after we all converged down in Randolph County, Quitman County, well, here’s the story.


It has lots of land and little population, and so the county had two polling locations. Wouldn’t you know it? The county tried to close the precinct primarily used by voters who are Black. 


Again, a resident contacted the ACLU of Georgia. Our attorney wrote a letter, attended meetings, and offered expert testimony. I didn’t get involved until the second meeting which ended up being the final meeting. I introduced myself to the elections superintendent. 


I told him how beautiful the county was, because it is. It’s got beautiful waterways, beautiful big trees. I just love all that stuff. Then, I lowered the boom.  


I told him that I had been in the area a few years prior – you know, over there in Randolph County. I’ve got to tell you that it was quite the pleasure watching the elections superintendent’s face when he realized what that meant … that he may have a media circus come to town.


Now the guy knew very well that my colleague and I worked for the ACLU of Georgia. He also knew that I was Facebook Living the meeting. So why in the heck he decided to announce to the whole world that he had injected himself with some bovine, some animal type of medicine to “take care of COVID” is beyond me. But that’s just an aside.


When all was said and done, the five members of this board voted 4 to 1 to keep open the precinct that primarily served those voters who are Black. This is great! It’s good, and it has TWO lessons for us.


1) When you get involved, you can actually make great things happen.

2) Our opponents are going to keep going after us, so we must remain vigilant.


But for the ReTHUGliQan voter suppression, Stacey Abrams would have become governor of Georgia in the 2018 election.  And if an abortion ban would have landed on her desk, she would have absolutely vetoed it on the spot.


Georgia voters have an incredible opportunity to put good solid Democrats as their governor, as their attorney general, and as their secretary of state. On the ballot are Stacey Abrams for Governor, Jen Jordan for Attorney General, and Bee Nguyen for Secretary of State. This is fantastic news!


I’ve had the immense pleasure of meeting each of them in person. They are simply as fantastic in person as they are elsewhere.


Of course, we also have Senator Raphael Warnock that we’re going to help get re-elected to the U.S. Senate.


You’ll find links to each of their campaigns on my website. Thank you for reading! 



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