"Republicans are ending the high-stakes runoffs for control of the U.S. Senate much the same way they finished the general election campaign: with a relentless focus on the exurbs and small towns where they hope to counteract Democratic gains in metro Atlanta."
In southern Georgia and the Black Belt, they will find the electoral landscape a little different, though.
Yesterday, lawyers equipped with the data produced by Hope Springs from Field PAC visited 89 local District, State and County Attorneys to talk about historical trends related to voter intimidation and outright suppression outside of the Atlanta Metro region. Neither side had ever experienced this kind of pre-election lawyering that one District Attorney called, “working the refs.”
Previously, these kinds of issues would also be reported to the U.S. Department of Justice, but we have been unable to make full contact with anyone in DoJ who was willing to accept documentation.
In our efforts to locate and track prior election issues and combine them with those reported to other coalition groups, Hope Springs PAC had gathered 652 issues that could be sufficiently documented and determined to be worth watching and warn law enforcement entities. Sufficiently means that there were either multiple acts of a similar nature at the same precinct(s) or there were multiple witnesses.
Singular incidents that we developed in our election protection efforts to prepare for this runoff need further support to be used for pre-election "warnings" but may be used on Election Day or afterward. This is why it is so important to develop and maintain a statewide database for securing elections.
Swings states have long maintained these kinds of databases and used the documentation to keep polls open or take issues to court afterward. Patterns only emerge if you look for them.
For example, there is a pattern in some southern Georgia counties where some law enforcement officers in various departments take "a blue holiday" in order to "protect their rights unofficially." Unofficially? Some civil rights activists in that area believe these LEOs are connected with the Klan or other white supremacist groups.
The Klan remains an ominous threat to minority voters south of the Atlanta Metro area. Four different types of mailings (!) or flyers have found their way to African-American homes, salons and churches. And while these efforts are not very sophisticated, they fit squarely into the historical attempts to intimidate and suppress voters in the Black Belt and surrounding areas. But Georgia uniquely registers voters by ethnicity, making targeting much easier for groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
Because of the compressed time frame, we have relied upon our outreach to the Black Churches to mobilize attorneys who would join the coalition of Election Protection efforts. Several of these lawyers were able to broaden the incident reports we had collected and prior election's reports of voter intimidation. Like most lawyers, they were immediately comfortable with our data-driven efforts to document incidents for both immediate resolution and future legal work.
But people are tired. They are tired of elections, tired of campaign commercials and tired of being afraid. I spent the weekend in the Atlanta Metro area and didn't get that sense there, but I definitely hear it in southern Georgia and especially the Black Belt. Things have clearly changed a lot in north of here since 2018 and it has bled down here. The crude attempts by white supremacist may be last gasps but that isn't how they see it. Both sides talk about "saving America" and I think both sides believe it.
Recording historical incidents for the purpose of preventing further incidents primarily through Black Churches has, apparently, been empowering. Someone is listening. Someone is making a record. These things have happened before, but rural Democrats may have forgotten or not been able to participate.
We are told that AFP has taken over the "True the Vote" effort to challenge voters who may have changed their voting address at the polls. My sense, though, is that Republicans are changing their focus from the southern parts of the state to the northern parts. In the last week Club for Growth has transferred organizers from the south to the north of Atlanta. Yet we aren’t as worried about the national groups like AFP or Club, but the historically southern groups that never seem to be exhausted, never seem to disappear even as history bends against them. As one person told me, “racism never goes out of style here.”
And that’s depressing.
On Election Day, we are equipping poll watchers and voter protection roaming teams with these incident reports. Arming them, as it were. Adding them to historical reports and using that combination if needed. This is a pro-active approach that would document any thing that happens at the polls. If a voter is forced to accept a provisional ballot, it would be documented (if it comes to our attention). If a voter gets challenged, it gets documented. Just the very act of documenting events on that piece of paper can have a calming effect. Actions that rise to the level of recording a badge number and names of poll workers and any poll watchers at a polling place can influence official activity. Voting is a (the) fundamental right of our democracy.
If you would like to support this work in pro-active Election Protection, please support Hope Springs from Field PAC:
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