Abrams lost the race for Georgia governor, and she believes voter suppression played a central role so shes leading a nationwide voting rights campaign
One year ago, at an election night party in downtown Atlanta, Stacey Abrams took the stage and delivered a speech that could well have been made 60 years ago, when this city was known as the cradle of the civil rights movement.
Democracy only works when we work for it. When we fight for it. When we demand it, she said, the microphone peaking under the power of her voice. In a civilized nation, the machinery of democracy should work for everyone, everywhere. Not just in certain places. And not just on a certain day.
Abrams was then the Democratic candidate for Georgia governor, attempting to become the countrys first black female state executive.
The race captivated America not only for its potential to make history. It also dredged up the countrys darkest past. African Americans in the deep south were once disenfranchised with literacy tests and other racist laws, and in recent years a surge in restrictive voting legislation, including voter identification laws and sweeping electoral roll purges, has ushered in an era described by some as a neo-Jim Crow.
Abrams did not win that night. Her opponent, the Trump-endorsed Republican Brian Kemp, eventually edged to victory by a thin, 55,000-vote margin. Abrams believes that voter suppression played a central role, which has led her to her next chapter: she has announced that for the next year, she will lead a nationwide voting rights campaign.
Her goal is to export lessons she learned fighting voter suppression in Georgia, and to mobilize a base of progressives and marginalized communities to help Democrats win the White House in 2020. While many had urged her to consider a run for the presidency herself, she believes the new mission may be a more formidable undertaking.
I am not convinced at all that we will have free and fair elections unless we work to make it so, she said in August, during the first of several conversations with the Guardian. In America, we have the theory of free and fair elections, but unfortunately weve seen, particularly over the last 20 years, an erosion of the ability to access that right.
The turning point came in a 2013 supreme court ruling that gutted the civil rights movements crowning achievement, the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The ruling paved the way for a raft of state laws that have made voting harder across the country.
The vote is the most powerful nonviolent instrument of transformation we have in our democracy, said the Georgia civil rights veteran and US congressman John Lewis last year. There are forces trying to make it harder and more difficult for people to participate. And we must drown out these forces.
This is why today, the Guardian is launching The Fight to Vote, a series that will investigate why it is so hard for growing numbers of Americans to cast a ballot. In the run-up to the 2020 election, it will scrutinize compromised electoral systems, give a platform to voices silenced at the polls, and reveal how voter suppression is already shaping the 2020 election.
We are in a different era of voter suppression, Abrams says. But unfortunately it is a continued lineage of voter suppression that began with the inception of our country.
Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us