Former gubernatorial nominee and founder of voting rights group Fair Fight Stacey Abrams kicks off a panel discussion on voter suppression.
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Former gubernatorial nominee and founder of voting rights group Fair Fight Stacey Abrams kicks off a panel discussion on voter suppression.

The Atlanta Democrat began her remarks with a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer: “My name is Stacey Abrams and I am not the governor of Georgia.” 

 

Abrams delivered her remarks as she kicked off a panel discussion about voter suppression across the country and in Georgia and its disproportionate impact on disabled voters and non-white voters. 

 

She has maintained a high profile following her narrow loss to Governor Brian Kemp last November by channeling her energy towards changing voting laws through her group Fair Fight. The group is also hoping to ensure more people are correctly counted in the census through Fair Count. 

 

“My responsibility is to talk not simply about what we want, but how we get it,” she said. 

 

Abrams said there are three tenets to measuring voter suppression: Can you register and stay on the voting rolls, can you cast a ballot and can that ballot be counted? 

 

That was the focus of the panel discussion, moderated by the Democratic Party of Georgia’s Saira Draper and Andrea S. Young with the Democratic National Committee. 

 

Helen Butler with the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda talked about starting her work in the early 2000s when Georgia was moving to a new uniform voting system. She found the same barriers that inhibited voters with disabilities also impacted communities of color. 
 
One example was Randolph County, a small southwest Georgia county that made headlines for trying to consolidate nine voting precincts down to two. Butler said that many polling places were held in fire stations, but the fire stations were not accessible to all voters and the county didn't have the money to make them compliant.

 

Rebecca Cokley with the Center for American Progress told a personal story about issues her father had voting while in a wheelchair.  

 

“Casting your vote is the single most important thing we do as citizens, and we should all have the ability to cast our vote in a way that is most effective and easiest for us,” said Vincent Olsziewski, who chairs the Democratic Party of Georgia’s disability caucus. 

 

He also said that voter suppression isn’t always overt – or intentional, and that some things are institutional and take longer to address. 

 

The panel discussion is one of many events the Democratic National Committee is hosting with local leaders surrounding Wednesday’s primary debate at Tyler Perry Studios.