Your right to vote is sacred, and we are going to give you a reason to use it in November.
Progress is possible, but it is fragile — and across our country, the battles for our most basic civil rights rage on.
For example, you may have recently heard about Randolph County, Georgia. Located in the southwest region of the state, Randolph’s poverty rate is far north of the national average. The area is mostly rural, predominantly Black, and frequently forgotten.
Last week, the Randolph County Board of Elections proposed closing seven of its nine polling locations before November. Without public transportation, some residents would be forced to walk over three hours to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
This is unacceptable, but we’ve seen these voter suppression tactics before.
We live in a nation that spent centuries denying the right to vote to the poor, to women, and to people of color. Georgia then spent decades creating barriers to prevent these historically-disenfranchised communities from exercising their constitutional right. But a proposal to eliminate nearly every polling location in a Black Belt county belongs in a history textbook, not the current events section.
So, how did we end up here? In short, elections have consequences. Five years ago, the Supreme Court struck down the beating heart and enforcement arm of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The court’s ruling in Shelby v. Holder allows state and local governments with a history of voting rights violations to pass voting laws at their own discretion. Election boards, like the one in Randolph County, have carte blanche to eliminate polling locations, change election rules, and propose unfair maps — just as they did before 1965.
With Shelby, bad actors were given the head of our democracy on a golden platter — the unprecedented ability to silence voters in small towns and rural counties where the fewest number of people are watching.
But here’s the thing: WE are watching, and we’re fighting back. Because we know that our ancestors fought too hard and bled too much for us to cede our right to vote just because it is hard.
This issue is extremely personal for me. I grew up hearing my parents’ stories about how they had to fight for their right to vote in the Jim Crow South. They registered voters in Mississippi at a time when doing so was dangerous, and their bravery influenced my decision to create the New Georgia Project to register every eligible voter in the state.
When I founded the New Georgia Project in 2014, there were 800,000 Georgians of color who did not have the right to vote — not because they weren’t eligible, but because no one had asked them. When we asked people to register to vote, they stepped up: The organization submitted more than 200,000 voter registrations in two years.
Our ability to participate in government, to elect our leaders and to improve our lives, is contingent upon our ability to access the ballot. We know in our heart of hearts that voting is a sacred right — the fount from which all other rights flow. Now, it’s time to live that truth through our actions.
Stories from places like Randolph County should not discourage us, but instead motivate us to fight harder, march further, and shout louder: No vote will go uncounted, no matter how hard they try.
To write the next chapter of our state’s history, to build a brighter future for ourselves and our families, we have a lot of work to do.
We have to reach out to those who have been disappointed again and again by promises made but never kept. We have to drive our friends and neighbors to the polls. We have to make sure every person we know can exercise their constitutional right to vote, and seek out those we don’t know yet to prove that they matter to us, too. Because our campaign is a coalition that reaches across backgrounds, sharing our constant belief that all of our voices matter, and when we raise them in unison — we win.
With your hands knocking, your feet marching, and your voices speaking out — from this moment to November and beyond — every Georgian we touch will understand the immense power of our vote.
Now is the time to defend our values and protect the vulnerable, from Randolph County to Rabun County. Now is the time to stand in the gap, to lead the way, and to know that this democracy only works when we work for it.
Your right to vote is yours — no person or board of elections can take it away from you. It is a right worth fighting for, and we are going to give you a reason to use it in November.
Together, we will speak out, we will stand up, and we will march all the way to the ballot box.