What to Do When They Keep Us From Voting

Published on April 1, 2021.

Stacey Abrams and LaTosha Brown sure shook a lot of folks up.

They followed Organizing 101: go to the people to get them to the polls, listen, make sure they understand the issues, be patient, be helpful and keep at it. Stacey went to Black churches and organized the women. She focused on three core beliefs, that folks want educational opportunity, economic security and shared responsibility. Like Stacey’s mother taught her, “You meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.”

LaTosha went from town to town in rural Georgia and made sure people knew how to sign up to vote. She does the type of deep listening and deep canvassing that we teach our volunteers in TAKE 10. La Tosha told The New York Times, “I think it makes a difference that when we take time to really engage people, not just hand somebody something in their hands and act like they don’t – that you’re just trying to get something from them, but really take the time.”

We could expect a Republican backlash when two new Georgia senators turned the state blue, and shifted the balance of power in the Senate.

Managing the Backlash

Before the presidential election, I talked with our TAKE 10 volunteers and asked them, “What would you do if the elections don’t go your way?” Not one of them said they would try to overturn voting laws to make them more difficult for people to vote.

Darlene Leysath from Cornerstone CDC told me, “I would be disappointed, upset and pretty much in disbelief. But I would work with the Board of Elections to make sure every vote is counted.”

We know that with every victory we celebrate comes more hard work. How do we hold elected officials accountable when all they do is try to change the voting laws, gerrymander districts and disenfranchise voters who won’t vote for them and their policies?

SunShine Station's Souls to the Polls Van 2020 elections
SunShine Station’s Souls to the Polls Van 2020 Elections

SunShine Station’s Keith Rivers said, “No matter how it turns out, we still need to get done what needs to get done.” He went on to explain to me, “Too often we mobilize around fear tactics. Many people go to the polls to vote against rather than think about what we are voting for.”

We See the Fear in Georgia

The Statehouse’s recent legislative action will add more ID requirements, remove drop-off ballot boxes in rural areas and cut the time to request an absentee ballot from 180 days to 84. It even makes it illegal to walk up to folks waiting 8-12 hours in line and offer them water. It will affect Black and Brown voters disproportionately, say voting rights advocates. President Biden calls SB 202, “Jim Crow for the 21st century.” Meanwhile Republican legislatures in more than 24 states are preparing their own restrictive laws.

“Our work will not stop with this election,” Courtney Patterson said in October. “If we win, and win well, we still need to look at post-election activity. We just need to stay fired up and ready to go.” Courtney, who is an organizer for Blueprint NC, said they would be looking at the people they put in office and make sure they are “actually fighting for our values and our issues. If they are not,” he continued, “they need to be removed.”

Chester Williams, who leads A Better Chance A Better Community, told me, “Maybe this is what America needs to really wake up. The true story of America is revealed in how we put ourselves together as a country. We all need to be on the phone, thinking together,” he said, so we can put a stop to efforts to tarnish elections with misinformation and phony allegations of voter fraud.

We have people like Stacey Abrams and LaTosha Brown, Darlene Leysath and Courtney Patterson, Chester Williams and Keith Rivers who will not stop their organizing efforts. The politicians who keep trying to stop the vote should be scared.

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