Democrat Stacey Abrams, Former Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives
Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore at flickr.com
Andrea Douglas, Queen’s University
Edited by Sharon Yin
Stacey Abrams first ran to be Governor of Georgia in the 2018 gubernatorial elections. As a middle-aged Black woman, Abrams’ demographic as a candidate was one that no Georgian voter had ever seen before. Georgia’s governors have always had a couple key traits in common: they were all males who were all White, and they were almost always conservative. Despite gaining broad support from the increasingly purple Georgian populace, Abrams lost her bid to become governor to Brian Kemp, the then-Secretary of State, by 55,000 votes. However, Abrams may not have truly lost. Turns out, as Secretary of State, Brian Kemp was actually responsible for administering the gubernatorial election that he was running in, and there were numerous incidents of potential voter suppression tactics that were cited at the time. For this reason, amongst other allegations that there were expansive voter suppression schemes working in Kemp’s favour, many democrats have insisted that Abrams didn’t actually lose, because the playing field wasn’t fair. In 2022, however, the playing field has arguably grown to be more uneven, especially with the new Georgian voting laws being some of the most restrictive in the country.
According to different studies, there are as many as 16 different provisions of GA SB202 that “hamper the right to vote for some Georgians or strip power from state and local elections officials and give it to legislators.” The most likely targets of the new voter suppression law which aims to have their votes be suppressed, are Georgia’s significant Black and Brown communities, who make up almost 33% of the population. That demographic makes Georgia a state with one of the highest proportions of Black and Brown voters compared to White voters (at around 60%).
Following her failed gubernatorial election in 2018, Abrams resurged as a Democratic political force in 2020, ultimately helping Joe Biden to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state of Georgia in 28 years – the first since Bill Clinton in 1992. Abrams accomplished this shocking feat by creating a new grassroots voting initiative called Fair Fight which, along with other grassroots initiatives like The New Georgia Project, helped to register 800,000 new voters ahead of the 2020 presidential elections. This mobilization of the Democratic Georgian vote, often consisting of Black and Brown voters, also helped Georgia elect two Democratic senators in the Georgia Senate runoff elections on January 5, 2021. This was another shocking blow to the Republicans in Georgia, who had long been some of the most radical conservatives operating in American politics. Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock were endorsed by Abrams, and worked closely with her and amongst each other in order to win their Senate seats, and even more impressively, the Senate for the Democrats.
In 2022, in addition to the repressive GA SB202, Republicans still control the state-wide legislature and have a Republican serving as Secretary of State. This makes Abrams’ fight to defeat Brian Kemp difficult. Despite her popularity and large support, the playing field in Georgia’s elections remains unfair. If the Democrats in the Senate cannot carve out the restrictive filibuster on a national level and pass the new Voting Rights Act (H.R.4), then vote suppression efforts and laws will continue to rig elections in favour of the Republicans. Due to SB202, voter ID requirements will become much stricter, which could be an issue as many potential voters don’t have pieces of I.D. like drivers licenses; drop boxes for absentee ballots have been drastically reduced and are often inaccessible to voters; early voting has expanded in small counties (often Republican) but has been reduced in more populous (Democratic) ones; no food or water can be given to voters waiting in lines which are made longer by the closure of many polling stations in Democratic areas; and mail-in ballots will be much more difficult to obtain and submit. Overall, Abrams faces an uphill battle towards winning the gubernatorial election, despite Brian Kemp’s unpopularity, even amongst Republicans.
Corasaniti, N., & Epstein, R. J. (2021, April 2). What Georgia’s Voting Law Really Does. Retrieved January 16, 2022, from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/02/us/politics/georgia-voting-law-annotated.html
Former Georgia Governors . (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2022, from National Governors Association: https://www.nga.org/former-governors/georgia/
Karimi, F. (2021, January 6). For Stacey Abrams, revenge is a dish best served blue. Retrieved January 16, 2022, from CNN: https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/07/us/stacey-abrams-georgia-voter-suppression-trnd/index.html
Quick Facts Georgia. (2021, July 1). Retrieved January 16, 2022, from United States Census Bureau: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/GA
Somvichian-Clausen, A. (2020, November 10). How Stacey Abrams helped get out the Black vote in Georgia. Retrieved January 16, 2022, from The Hill: https://thehill.com/changing-america/respect/diversity-inclusion/525387-how-stacey-abrams-helped-get-out-the-black-vote