In what some saw as an observation of voting laws and others saw as voter repression, a bus full of black senior citizens were not allowed to go to the polls in Georgia on Oct. 15.
The bus, organized by the activist group Black Voters Matter, planned to collect about 40 senior citizens from a county-run senior center in Louisville and transport them to the polls for the first day of early voting in the state’s governor’s election.
Just as the bus was about to depart, the senior center’s director climbed on board and told everyone the trip was canceled, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Jefferson County does not allow its county facilities to be used for political events, in order to remain non-partisan.
Black Voters Matter is a non-partisan organization, aimed at getting all African Americans active in the election process.
Voter suppression is real, y'all and it happened to us today in Louisville, Georgia in Jefferson County. We had a whole busload of beautiful black elders ready to go vote when the county commisionner shut us down and made our elders get off the bus without having the chance to vote. This is voter suppression pure and simple. These elders have been through this time and time again so today was fuel to our fire! Instead of bring five family members and friends, they're gonna bring twenty! Can't stop, won't stop. When we work together, we win. Share this video for us to get out the word that we need a record turnout in Georgia from now untiol Election Day! And tell us if and where you voted yet in the comments!!
تم النشر بواسطة Black Voters Matter في الإثنين، ١٥ أكتوبر ٢٠١٨
However, Jefferson County Democratic Party Chairwoman Diane Evans had helped organize the Black Voters Matter event at the senior center, which contravened county rules. A county clerk noticed this, and called County Administrator Adam Brett.
“Jefferson County administration felt uncomfortable with allowing senior center patrons to leave the facility in a bus with an unknown third party,” Brett said in a statement.
“No seniors at the Jefferson County senior center were denied their right to vote.”
Black Voters Matter co-founder LaTosha Brown told Think Progress.org that there were no laws in Jefferson County or in the state of Georgia prohibiting groups from transporting voters to the polls.
“This is voter suppression, Southern style,” said Brown. “I’m very upset. I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’ve got a lot of emotions right now.”
ESSENCE article about the Black Voters Matter: The South Is Rising Tour link: https://www.essence.com/news/politics/voting-registration-south-black-voters-matter-fund-tour
Ineffective Intimidation Tactic?
The seniors, who had been dancing around the parking lot before boarding the bus, enthusiastic about the opportunity to cast their ballot, were given the bad news and quietly complied.
“We knew it was an intimidation tactic,” LaTosha Brown said on Oct. 16. “It was really unnecessary. These are grown people.”
Brown said that Black Voters Matter got permission from the senior center to have an event encouraging participation in the upcoming election. Brown said that the seniors had requested a bus ride to the polls after getting excited about voting.
— Matt Singer (@mattsinger7) October 15, 2018
Diane Evans, Chairwoman of the Jefferson County Democratic Party, said the event did not promote either candidate and was not expressly political beyond encouraging people to get involved in politics by voting.
Evans said she helped organize the event as a private citizen, a pastor, and a community leader, not as a Democratic Party official.
“It was discouraging that they weren’t able to vote,” Evans told the Journal-Constitution.
“When they’re suppressing votes, they’re going to come up with any kind of excuse about what your problem is.”
— Black Voters Matter (@BlackVotersMtr) August 24, 2018
LaTosha Brown said that the senior center provided a van to carry the would-be voters to the polls, but after climbing aboard, they were asked to get off the van. The senior center staff decided it was too close to lunchtime, and that arrangements could be made for another day.
County Administrator Adam Brett told the Journal-Constitution that the senior center regularly arranges public transport to get the seniors to the polls.
If stopping the bus ride to the polls was an intimidation tactic, it certainly didn’t have the desired effect, LaTosha Brown told the Journal-Constitution.
“The seniors were so resolved. They said: ‘We’re going to vote. Nobody’s going to stop us,’” Brown said. “It wasn’t the first time someone has denied them or tried to prevent them from voting.”
Brown also told ThinkProgress, “At the end of the day, every senior that got off that bus, not only are they going to vote, but they’re going to get five to ten people to vote with them.”