Originally published in Issue Two: The Way Out Issue on Sept. 26, 2019.
I often watch people struggle these days with staying informed and staying sane. What is the point of being overloaded with information that keeps us in a state of high alert when we know that constantly worrying kills our ability to be creative and productive? Precious reserves of energy are continuously wasted on things that cannot be addressed in the moment, leaving people with heightened levels of anxiety constantly looking for avenues to cope. Incessant news is a plague on our minds—individually and collectively—ultimately deciding for us what we need to know to stay informed without offering much in the way of a solution.
How could it not plague us? It is easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless in the onslaught of repeat 24-hour news cycles. It’s as if we are a moving target of dramatized, rating-driven networks jumping from one travesty to the next, dragging us with them before we even have a chance to process the previous catastrophe. We are bombarded by news sources while chasing our tails in the name of “staying informed.” It is time to regroup and focus on what we can do.
It’s a basic rule: if you have problems in your personal life, it is best you sort them out before trying to fix other people’s problems. Similarly, on a sociopolitical level, those who live in the state of Georgia need to help each other to get our house in order if we are to move towards any constructive change at a national level. It is time to flip Georgia.
Here are two major things that need to be prioritized and constantly considered. First is learning the importance of the 2020 U.S. Census and understanding why every person in our state needs to be counted. If the count is inaccurate, the redrawing of districts is skewed, voting rights are affected, and state funded programs suffer. Many people are reluctant to be counted in the census for various reasons, but a lot of it has to do with fear that their information will be passed on to other government agencies like the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The recent proposal by the Trump administration to have a citizenship question in the census only served to reinforce this mistrust. It is problematic that people of color, hispanics, and children are the most undercounted groups in the state of Georgia. People need to be reassured that showing up to be counted isn’t going to put them in a situation that negatively affects their livelihood. They also need to be counted to ensure that their communities are getting the funding and representation they deserve.
The second thing to consider is fighting to restore Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that was affected by the Supreme Court during the Obama administration in the 2013 case Shelby County v. Holder. Since this decision, there has been an onslaught of assaults on voting rights within individual states, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from exercising their right to vote as American citizens or have their votes counted. If you are concerned with national issues such as healthcare reform, prison reform, social justice, reproductive justice, environmental justice, and economic justice, then keep your focus on your state. Consider the 2020 U.S. Census and voter protection reform to be the two primary issues—because it is from the corruption and faulty systems within these areas that spawn all the other problem areas. And it is reform in these areas that will produce a ripple effect of change everywhere else.
As individuals, we can work together on a state and local level to ensure that there is an accurate count for the 2020 U.S. Census, which will force the map manipulation process (better known as “gerrymandering”) to more accurately represent people living within each district. According to a report written by the now-deceased lead G.O.P. strategist Thomas B. Hofeller, known as the “master of the modern gerrymander,” not only are districts often drawn inaccurately, but they are strategically and deliberately drawn to marginalize minority groups, create fewer districts in traditionally Democratic areas, and create new opportunities for stronger Republican map manipulation—all of which serve to strengthen the G.O.P. This report was published by Michael Wines of the New York Times on May 30, 2019.
Georgia is no exception and is just one example that is covered in this issue of the Mainline. Let Georgia and its counties’ stories serve as an example that reflects the bigger picture. Map manipulation and voter suppression are tools used by the G.O.P. to maintain control of the state and have been time and time again. As you will see in the articles to come, voter suppression is a meticulous endeavor that has continued to slip under the radar and bolster the Republican vote in Georgia. Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race between Stacey Abrams and former Secretary of State Brian Kemp is only one example of how federal oversight is still needed when it comes to state elections. The fight is not about Abrams refusing to concede to Kemp. The fight is about repairing our system, getting all the people living in our state counted, represented, and confident that their vote will count in future elections.
Let this magazine act as your handbook and resource on how to truly stay informed and discover ways to get involved to make a difference on a local level. Stay focused! We must follow this all the way to the end and not be distracted by the influx of news moving across our screens. Once we get ourselves and our state in order, then we will have senators and state representatives who will actually take our voices into account and represent us accurately on a national level.
In this issue you will find articles pertaining directly to the issues at hand. We will start with a look at recent voter suppression tactics utilized in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race, including tactics such as “exact match” and illegal voter purges. We will get you up to speed with what is currently happening in the Abrams’ trial against the Georgia State Board of Elections concerning House Bill 316—a very big deal in which the plaintiffs seek to eliminate unconstitutional and racially discriminatory election processes in Georgia. We will discuss the patterns exhibited by Kemp during his time as Secretary of State in his intimidation against people of color and organizations that sought to mobilize voters of color. We will tell the stories of Randolph County and Brooks County, taking an in-depth look at recent voter suppression and illustrating how little America has evolved from its inherent racism that it is was once so deeply rooted in.
It is important to get an overview of what is at stake, but also to hear the individual stories of how voter suppression has demoralized many of our citizens in Georgia who sought to raise their voice. We cannot stand by in silence. We are here to keep the stories alive and advocate for change.