Making History One Vote At A Time

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I wrote this essay for one of my college courses early last year. Since Stacey Abrams is in the fight for Governor of Georgia once again, I wanted to share my perspective of the challenges Stacey Abrams has faced and take a moment to showcase the powerhouse that is Stacey Abrams.

April Tapia

POLS 155

14 February 2021

Making History One Vote At A Time

It’s 3:51 pm on Saturday, February 13, 2021, and Donald Trump has just been acquitted on charges of inciting an insurrection at the Capital. On January 6, 2021, thousands of Trump supporters showed up at a “Stop The Steal” Rally in Washington, DC. Trump and other Republicans gave passionate speeches rejecting the results of the 2020 election, claiming voter fraud and that the Democrats had rigged the election in their favor. Trump gave the call to action for his supporters to march to the Capital to stop the steal. Protesters engaged officers violently, forcing their way into the Capital, intending to stop President-Elect Joe Biden’s certification by any means necessary. I can’t claim to be surprised by the republican vote to acquit Trump; this just comes as another reminder to how important it is for us to fight for our democracy. I felt that this was as good a time as any to curl up in my blanket and watch the Stacey Abrams documentary All In: The Fight For Democracy.

The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic created a perfect opportunity to test the efficacy of mail-in-ballots. Months before the 2020 election, Trump and other Republicans in Congress created a narrative that mail-in-ballots were fraudulent and that the Democratic Party was attempting to rig the election. Republicans knew that if black and minority Americans could easily cast their votes, Trump and many Republican representatives could lose their positions to a Democratic opponent. The Stop the Steal rally was the Republican Party’s last-ditch effort to suppress millions of black and minority American votes. Americans who otherwise would not have voted in the 2020 election had it not have been for the approval of mail-in ballots. The documentary film All In: The Fight for Democracy touches on how historically, the party of white supremacy has been working to stifle the black American and minority vote. This film focuses on Stacey Abrams and her journey to become Georgia’s first Black American Governor and the voter suppression tactics used to this day.

All In is a documentary about the challenges minorities faced casting their votes ever since the ratification of the 15th amendment in 1870 when black men were first given the right to vote. The documentary touches on pivotal moments in history where minorities fought and won their rights to vote and the tactics used against them to circumvent the progress minorities made. Jim Crow laws, black codes, Voter ID laws, voting purges, poll closings, and other forms of voter suppression are tactics that have primarily been used by those who wish to suppress the black vote. The film goes more in-depth, detailing some of the violence black Americans faced when first granted the right to vote. They tell the story of Macio Snipes, a war veteran who wanted to cast a vote in the primary elections after the “whites only” rule was struck down by the court. Macio was the only black man to cast a vote in his county in Georgia despite signs warning that the first black man to vote would die; he was killed by three white men several days after casting his vote. African Americans play a pivotal role in our elections, which is why white supremacists have historically used any means necessary to prevent them from voting. The voter turnout of African Americans for Barack Obama secured his presidency in 2008 & 2012. Their votes recently led to a flip of both Senate seats in Georgia, a pivotal moment in U.S. history. Stacey Abrams played a crucial role in securing both Georgia Senate seats for the Democratic Party.

Stacey Abrams interjects between the stories of racism and violence to discuss her own experience in politics. Abrams definitely had a head start in political socialization; her parents made it a point to teach their children early on the importance of voting. Abrams was valedictorian at Avondale high school in Georgia. Valedictorians in Georgia were often invited to meet the governor. Stacey and her family, dressed in their Sunday best, took the bus down to the governor’s mansion for the event. The guard at the gate stopped them and said, “This is a private event. You don’t belong here”. Despite her parent’s attempt to reason with the guard and ask him to look at the list, he repeated, “You don’t belong here.” This moment is something that stuck with Stacey her entire life, the notion that because they were black, they didn’t belong in the governor’s mansion. 

When Stacey attended Spelman College in Georgia, she was very involved with voter registration; she was concerned with how many people were not taking advantage of their right to vote. She would attend city council meetings, which helped her understand how government worked and how it didn’t work. In 2018 Abrams ran for governor of Georgia against then-Secretary of State, Brian Kemp. If elected, Stacey Abrams would have become the nation’s first female African American governor. What Stacey wasn’t prepared for was the fight against not only Brian Kemp but against staunch voter suppression tactics implemented by Kemp himself. Brian Kemp was the constitutionally authorized individual to oversee the very election he was a candidate in. Stacey Abrams lost the gubernatorial election against Brian Kemp due to voter suppression tactics. Abrams made it her mission to make sure that every Georgia voter’s voice would be heard in the 2020 election, and she succeeded.

All In is an excellent telling of how social movements can have strong and lasting impacts on our democracy; and how there is a constant need for the people to fight for their liberties. Voter suppression tactics are being used heavily today to filter out the black and minority vote. I remember clearly how after Obama’s election, republicans claimed that “racism is over” because we now had a black president. I didn’t realize the voter suppression tactics that were implemented as a result of that narrative. The Supreme Court gutted the voting rights act of 1965, which allowed states to implement various voting laws meant to target blacks and minorities. However, as recent events have shown us, we, the people, have the power to form and join social movements that have the power to change the outcome of our elections. They may be able to suppress some of our votes, but they can’t suppress all of us. 

Works Cited

Cortes, Lisa and Liz Garbus, directors. All In: The Fight for Democracy. Amazon Prime, 2020.

Hughes, Siobhan, and Rebecca Ballhaus. “Senate Votes to Acquit Trump in Impeachment Trial.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 13 Feb. 2021, www.wsj.com/articles/senate-to-hear-closing-arguments-in-trump-impeachment-11613212204.

ELLIE BUFKIN, Sinclair Broadcast Group. “What to Expect during ‘Stop the Steal’ Rally in Washington, DC.” ABC 4 News, WCIV, 4 Jan. 2021, abcnews4.com/news/nation-world/what-to-expect-during-stop-the-steal-rally-in-washington-dc.

Wines, Michael. “As Trump Disputes Election Results, Republicans Target Voting by Mail.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Dec. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/12/10/us/mail-voting-absentee.html.

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