India Owens, a 22-year-old African American woman, voted in the 2016 presidential election at Union Grove Baptist Church in Auburn, Georgia, an exurb of Atlanta. Two years later, she hadn’t moved or changed her address, but when she returned to her polling place on the morning of November 6, 2018, she was told by poll workers that she was not registered to vote. She was not offered a provisional ballot and left without voting. She returned later that day and demanded a provisional ballot, but she does not know if it was counted. Owens’ story was not an isolated incident in Georgia this election. There were a multitude of voting problems in the gubernatorial race between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. Eligible voters didn’t show up on the registration rolls or were purged by the state. Thousands of Georgians had their registrations put on hold and weren’t sure if they’d be able to vote. Some voters were wrongly flagged as non-citizens; others had their ballots rejected because poll workers told them they had the wrong ID. Hundreds of polling places were shuttered before the election, and other precincts had four-hour lines. Absentee ballots were rejected because of signature mismatches or other minor errors. One Abrams adviser described it as “death by a thousand paper cuts.”
On Friday afternoon, Abrams acknowledged that Kemp—the secretary of state who implemented many of these restrictions and was in charge of ensuring a fair voting process—would be certified as the winner of the election. He leads by 55,000 votes, out of nearly 4 million cast. Abrams came within 18,000 votes of forcing a runoff. The election was marred by allegations of widespread voter suppression, and the Abrams campaign says that suppression may have prevented enough votes to keep the race from going to a runoff. Other top Democrats echoed these concerns. “If she had a fair election, she already would have won,” Hillary Clinton said this week.
At a press conference on Friday, Abrams said that “under the watch of the now-former secretary of state, democracy failed Georgia.” She noted that although there was “no further viable remedy” to challenge the election results, she would soon be filing “a major federal lawsuit” challenging Kemp’s “gross mismanagement” of the election. “Voting is not a right for some, it is a right for all,” she said.
“It is not about me, it is about us, it is about the democracy that we share,” Abrams added.