06 November 2020 16:43
The Yale Law School graduate, tax attorney, and former Georgia state representative became a rising star when she ran for governor of her home state in 2018, but she also lost that election to Brian Kemp under a cloud of what appeared to be racially-motivated voter suppression. According to an Associated Press investigation on the eve of the election, Kemp, then Georgia's secretary of state, mass-cancelled more than a million voter registrations between 2012 and 2018, and in the run-up to the tight gubernatorial race, froze an estimated 53,000 registrations, a majority of them belonging to African American voters. But after her 2018 loss, she doubled down and became one of the country's preeminent voting rights activists, launching the nonprofit Fair Fight to combat voter suppression. Riding the wave of support – celebrity, even – she won during the governor's race (Oprah and John Legend campaigned for her), Abrams traversed the state, hoping to replicate the electoral feats she achieved in her own bid, in which she tripled Latino, Asian American, and Pacific Islander voter turnout and doubled youth participation in Georgia. As Vogue noted in its profile of Abrams last year: "She inspired 1.2 million Black Democrats in Georgia to vote for her (more than the total number of Democratic gubernatorial voters in 2014)", and "gained the highest percentage of the state's white Democratic voters in a generation".
Building on the efforts of the New Georgia Project and others, Abrams and Fair Fight registered a staggering estimated 800,000 new voters since 2018 and helped squash suppressive policies like "exact match", which had required registrations to precisely match voters' licenses down to the hyphen, or else risk being tossed out. Others noted that Abrams's story is political Shakespeare for the way she turned her personal electoral loss into a larger victory: the former candidate who personally encountered racially-driven voter suppression rising up to make sure that, next time, people of colour could vote in historic numbers. 6 Former Georgia State Representative and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams Credit: EPA Stacey Abrams, 46, is a voting rights activist and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate. In May 2020, the former Georgia state minority leader - then a possible Democratic vice presidential pick - endorsed Joe Biden for US president, citing his stance on climate change, economic recovery and voting rights. She gained a national profile in her failed bid to become Georgia's governor in 2018 and is a leading voting rights advocate in the southern state. Since then, Abrams has gone national with her election-reform efforts, focusing on 18 key states where African-American voter turnout were said to prove decisive in November, up and down the ballot. People across the nation have been glued to their TV, to see whether Georgia could finally become the swing state that Democrats have long hoped for. "If Donald Trump does not win the state of Georgia, he cannot get 270 Electoral votes - he cannot win this election in the Electoral College." The New Georgia Project, Abrams and Fair Fight's registering of an estimated 800,000 new voters since 2018 "all represent an X factor as the gap between Biden and Trump narrows and Georgia could potentially flip from red to blue," the magazine adds. In 2018, Abrams started the non-profit, Fair Fight, after losing the Georgia gubernatorial election by 55,000 votes to Republican Brian Kemp. He had been accused of using his position as Georgia's then-Secretary of State to oversee his own election and actively suppress voter turnout, particularly in Black and Latino neighborhoods. This massive increase in Georgia's Democratic vote came from a few things: population growth, the implementation of automatic voter registration in 2016, and Stacey Abrams's organizing work over the past decade. "Stacey is the architect of how we are where we are in Georgia," said DuBose Porter, who was chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party during the years that Abrams was beginning her push nearly a decade ago to start registering more voters in the state. The fact that Biden now may win the state also puts a new shine on the battle for control of the Senate, where Democrats would have to win a pair of runoff elections that are now set for Jan. 5, which would produce a 50-50 tie in the Senate, making a Democratic vice president the tie-breaking vote and giving their party the majority. A total of 3.9 million Georgians voted in the 2012 presidential election, and eight years later, about a million more people cast ballots. But without Abrams and the work she has spearheaded, all of that would not likely have added up to a situation where a Democratic presidential candidate was in position to win Georgia in 2020. Abrams began working to register new Democratic voters ahead of the 2014 election, when she was the Democratic leader in the Georgia House of Representatives. And so Abrams fought a battle on two fronts, educating voters and "giving them a way to believe again," Porter, the state's former Democratic Party chairman, said, while also building an organization aimed at registering thousands of new voters. Abrams's work to increase minority participation in Georgia put her on a collision course with Brian Kemp, who had become Georgia's secretary of state in 2010. In 2014 Abrams accused Kemp of failing to register about half of the 87,000 new voters that her group at the time, the New Georgia Project, had signed up. Kemp removed 1.5 million voters from Georgia's rolls between 2012 and 2016, Brennan said, many times simply for failing to vote in the most recent elections. Kemp has pointed to increases in voter registration among Democrats as evidence that he did not suppress the vote. Abrams has said the Democratic vote would have grown by more if not for Kemp's actions. Then in 2018, Kemp ran for governor of Georgia but also remained in his position as the top state official responsible for overseeing the election in which he himself was a candidate. Abrams won more votes than any Democrat in Georgia history, including presidential candidates, with over 1.9 million votes. "To watch an elected official – who claims to represent the people of this state — baldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression of the people's democratic right to vote has been truly appalling," Abrams said of Kemp on Nov. 16, 2018.