ATLANTA – Observers might assume the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples Agenda (People’s Agenda) is elated to hear reports of record turnout after working diligently to educate voters and reassure them that their ballot will count in the first election since the state passed stricter voting laws as a result of false accusations of voter fraud. However, activists say they were happy for the turnout but were dismayed to witness confusion, frustration, fear, and apathy at a level that harkens back decades. The misinformation and threats of violence didn’t just suppress votes, it caused seasoned election workers to stay home, and made it difficult to recruit canvassers and poll workers.
“Don’t get me wrong, the People’s Agenda and other groups like Black Women’s Roundtable and Black Voters Matter did a tremendous job turning out voters. We did work. But it shouldn’t have been this hard,” said Helen Butler, executive director of the Peoples Agenda. “There were still fights in the courts, many of the election workers were confused about procedures, and on the ground a lot of people just didn’t want to hear anything about the election. They felt misled, lied to, lied on, and just didn’t want to be bothered. Some people even thought they could get locked up for voting because of tickets. We were proud of our young voters, many of them helped to get out the vote. But, we did run into more young people than usual that were a bit disillusioned due to the confusion.”
Georgia Black Women’s Roundtable co-convener, Felicia Davis, adds, “When, for no factual reason, the state government decides to change laws to make it harder to vote, the onus should not be under-resourced nonprofit organizations to educate voters on new laws and make sure poll workers have a clear understanding of those laws. The Secretary of States office should shoulder that burden. But, it’s clear that they did not put forth sufficient effort to educate voters and election workers across the state.”
When Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recertified the results of Georgia’s last presidential election he announced during a news conference in December of 2020 “We have now counted legally cast ballots three times and the results remain unchanged.” Raffensperger added, “Georgians can now move forward knowing that their votes, and only their legal votes, were counted accurately, fairly, and reliably.”
Despite Raffensperger’s forceful defense of the integrity of the 2020 election, Governor Kemp went on to sign SB202, a restrictive voting law that reduced the number of ballot drop boxes, criminalized the distribution of water or snacks to voters in long lines, and slashed the time to request and return absentee ballots from 176 days to 59 days.
“Our legislature focused on fraud that did not exist rather than address the chronic systemic issues that have created problems at the polls for years,” exclaims Butler. “Several counties experienced technical glitches with the eNet system that checks voters in, there were issues with printers, scanners, and an insufficient number of poll workers. Some places had incorrect ballots and, in Cobb County, a judge just extended the date to return ballots to Nov. 14 for more than 1000 voters that never received absentee ballots they requested. Instead of haphazardly changing the rules, perhaps we should work on improving the ones we have,” Butler adds.
The People’s Agenda worked throughout Georgia alongside other organizations including: Clayton County Black Women’s Roundtable, GA STAND UP, Black Youth Vote, Black Male Initiative, and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s Unity ’22 Campaign, to register, educate, and mobilize voters. They hosted a civic-minded comedy show, a gospel luncheon, knocked on doors, phone banked and their five-day Power of the Ballot Bus Tour visited Macon, Augusta, Albany, the Atlanta Metro to hold events, rallies, wave signs and canvass neighborhoods.
“This election was a manifestation of the change that’s been underway over the several years. As a part of the civil legacy its deeply disturbing to know that some Black youth are disenchanted with the electoral process but it’s understandable when there have been so many lies and so little accountability,” Davis notes. “I was happy to see that many of the dedicated voters we registered stood in lines determined to cast a ballot. It was also encouraging to see leaders like Melanie L. Campbell and Latosha Brown united continue the fight for justice.”
For more information about the People’s Agenda, or to volunteer, email email@example.com or visit http://thepeoplesagenda.org.