Deepening concerns over widespread voter suppression in Georgia ahead of a closely-watched gubernatorial race, dozens of black senior citizens were forced off a bus that was taking them to vote in the midterm election this week after government officials raised concerns about the trip.
As Think Progress reported, the non-profit group Black Voters Matter had hosted a get-out-the-vote event at a senior center in Louisville, Georgia on Monday, and was preparing to take about 40 senior citizens to the polls on the state’s first day of early voting, when the center’s director told the riders to exit the bus on the orders of the Jefferson County clerk.
LaTosha Brown, a co-founder of Black Voters Matter, called the order a clear “intimidation tactic.”
“This is voter suppression, Southern style,” Brown told Think Progress. “I’m very upset. I’m angry.”
Yesterday, we experienced voter suppression in Louisville, Georgia.
We had a whole busload of beautiful black elders ready to go vote when the County Commissioner shut us down and made our elders get off the bus without having the chance to vote. Share this to spread the word! pic.twitter.com/fvULloAz4J
— Black Voters Matter (@BlackVotersMtr) October 17, 2018
Unreal: In Georgia today, 40 elderly black voters were literally ordered off a bus that was taking them to vote early.
— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) October 17, 2018
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the county clerk had been alerted to the bus trip, which allegedly violated a law banning “political activity” at county-run facilities like the senior center. But according to Brown, there are no laws in majority-black Jefferson County prohibiting third-party groups from transporting voters to polling places.
Jefferson County Administrator Adam Brett suggested to the Journal-Constitution that the effort to stop the residents from voting was indeed politically motivated:
The county government considered the event political because Jefferson County Democratic Party Chairwoman Diane Evans helped organize it, County Administrator Adam Brett said in a statement.
“Jefferson County administration felt uncomfortable with allowing senior center patrons to leave the facility in a bus with an unknown third party,” Brett said.
Evans called the incident “discouraging.”
“When they’re suppressing votes, they’re going to come up with any kind of excuse about what your problem is,” she told the Journal-Constitution.
The residents were ordered off the bus amid mounting concerns that Secretary of State Brian Kemp – also the Republican candidate for governor – has actively suppressed votes by purging more than 50,000 majority-black voters’ names from the state’s rolls. Kemp is running against Democrat Stacey Abrams, who would be the country’s first black female governor.
“During this electoral season, we all should be committed to ensuring that more, not fewer, eligible voters can participate and exercise their fundamental right to vote,” wrote Leah Aden, the NAACP’s deputy director of litigation, in a letter to the county on Tuesday. The group has demanded an “immediate investigation” into what it called “an unacceptable act of voter intimidation.”