Voting Rights Film Series: Suppressed Voters

University Libraries hosted its continued Voting Rights Film Series this Thursday. The film featured was “Suppressed 2020: The Right to Vote.”

The film followed the many ways voters have been suppressed and it featured a following of the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election as a recent and large expression of voter suppression in the United States. The film and its cast warn against the implications of voter suppression and the effects that may take place if voters are suppressed.

According to the film’s narrator, there have been 17 million voters purged world-wide since the 2016 general election.

One of the film’s speakers said that Georgia has been deemed the epicenter of the voter suppression battle, and the aforementioned election is no outlier by any means.

In 2018, Stacey Abrams ran for governor as Georgia’s first Black woman to serve as the Democratic nominee and she had been endorsed by Bernie Sanders and Our Revolution, a progressive political action organization.

Abrams’ opponent at the time was Secretary of State and Republic nominee Brian Kemp, who was endorsed by President Donald Trump.

“Suppressed 2020” followed the personal experience of Georgian voters through the 2018 midterm election as well as implementation of voter identification laws after being approved by the Supreme Court.

One speaker referred to this action as unlike a cross burning, but lethal because it was bureaucratic, mundane and routine.

Louis Brooks, Georgia resident and Korean War veteran, had been voting since he could in 1956. He recounted his experience first registering to vote, which came with difficulty from registration personnel and test taking. However, he was able to register and proclaimed to not let anything stop him from voting.

Brooks was from Randolph County, though, where his local polling place was shut down in Lincoln Park and 95% of voters were African American.

He found himself unable to vote and couldn’t travel to the nearest polling location which was 30 miles away and a walk of nearly three and a half hours.

Citizens and civil rights organizations began to speak out against the closing of polling locations in seven precincts. Those in charge of aiming to close locations said that it was to save money.

However, the average cost of one county’s polling location was $4,000; whereas, the average cost of one county’s Christmas decorations was $18,000.

It seems that closing the polls was not about saving money.

Petitions were opened and the pressure was on to keep polling locations open. There was a vote to keep these seven precincts open. However, since 2012, over 200 polling locations have closed.

The closing of these locations led to longer lines in communities of predominantly people of color compared to that of white polling locations. Speakers in the film waited up to six hours to vote at times.

One woman in particular was sent back and forth between two locations to vote and it took six hours for her to finally vote, after the sun had set. However, after her ballot had been cast, she followed up to see if her vote counted.

It hadn’t, because she had voted provisionally, like many others.

Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia seemed to play a large role in the film. One speaker referred to his role in the election as “an umpire playing in the game.”

Under his reign as Secretary of State, he became known not simply for his race against Stacey Abrams, but because he was responsible for purging around 890,000 voters, which was 14% of the electorate at the time, most of which were unlawful according to the film.

Members were removed from the voting rolls for reasons such as moving (within the same county), not voting “in a while,” not returning a post card sent from the Secretary of State and more. These reasons all affected the poor, the elderly and people of color – all of which tend to vote democratic.

97% of new voter registrations in 2018 were democratic.

Norman Broderick, an Army veteran and absentee voter, called absentee ballots a “very important tool.” He had success using them while serving Baghdad and other places outside of the United States.

However, once he was stationed in South Carolina and could not go home to Georgia to vote during the week, he was denied the right to vote.

He placed an absentee ballot request and received confirmation that it had been received. It was a ballot he would never receive, and later found out the ballot was sent to the wrong address and his vote would not count during the election.

“Suppressed 2020: The Fight to Vote” shed light on the many ways that voters have been suppressed and managed to bring attention to the ways in which voters can be turned away or how votes don’t count.

There has never been a more relevant time to be registered to vote and to be aware of the ways in which voters are suppressed.

Though the deadline to register to vote has passed, people must remain vigilant about the ballots cast, to ensure that votes are counted and to be aware of voter purging. 

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