Militant Journalism

Protesters condemn racist voting legislation in rural Georgia

Anti-racist protesters joined a Board of Elections meeting on March 9 in Spalding County, Ga., to oppose local Republicans’ new provision to eliminate Sunday voting. This move is viewed by many as a white supremacist attack against the Black vote for partisan gain.

Sunday voting has played a historically important role with some of the highest turnout rates for Black voters. In recent years, Black churches have organized initiatives like “Souls to the Polls” to encourage voter registration. The right-wing push to eliminate Sunday voting was enabled by the passage of Governor Brian Kemp’s SB 202, which expanded the Republican-controlled State Election Board’s power to restructure county election boards, which organize local elections and the polling sites.

Prior to the passage of SB 202, the five-member elections board in Spalding County, had a Democratic majority and three Black women members. It has now been replaced by an all-male board with a white Republican majority and a QAnon-supporting chairman. The city of Griffin in Spalding County, a 45-minute drive south of Atlanta, is 56% Black.

“Sunday voting has a higher percentage of Black voter turnout than any other day and is essential for the working class in general,” said protester Zachery Fuller at the meeting, followed by community members’ applause. Fuller, who grew up in Spalding County and is member of Mosaic Atlanta, was the first non-binary person to run for City Commission, District 5 of Griffin in 2021. Their campaign, which lost by a narrow 21 votes, advocated for protecting the environment, improving the education system, and ending the poverty crisis in Griffin.

“We’re seeing a pattern where they will try to take votes away and when challenged, can never produce the information that explains why,” said protest organizer Britt Jones-Chukura, who co-founded Justice 4 Georgia, Protect the Vote Georgia, and serves as a lead organizer for New Georgia Project’s Peanut Gallery.

SB 202 has also drawn widespread condemnation for new restrictions disenfranchising Black and working-class voters, including the criminalization of serving food and water to voters waiting in line, and burdensome requirements for photo identification for absentee ballots.

In June 2021, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger purged over 100,000 names from Georgia’s voter rolls in a move he described as “ensuring the integrity of our elections.” Spalding County is one of seven counties in Georgia where Republicans have overtaken Democrats as the majority on election boards since the passage of SB 202. 

“It really angers those of us in the community because it’s blatant white supremacy,” Dr. Yoshunda Jones told Liberation News. “They’re not worried about any other election except for 2020.”

Dr. Yoshunda Jones and activists in the Spalding County Board of Elections room. Liberation photo

Board chairman Ben Johnson, who has commanded police to forcibly remove Dr. Yoshunda Jones from board meetings in the past, was not present for the vote, leaving it as a stalemate. Johnson has also demonstrated ardent support on social media for QAnon conspiracy theories and the “Stop the Steal” movement, in which Donald Trump attributed his loss of the 2020 election to voter fraud, and incited the far-right Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

“It’s very blatant what they’ve done with the hostile takeover of the Board of Elections. With the history of civil rights, it’s 2022 and we’re still dealing with the same issues,” said Dr. Jones, who attends every board of elections meeting with Zachery Fuller to advocate for Sunday voting. “It’s like you take so many steps forward and you get slammed backward, but we just have to keep fighting.”

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