For Black History Month, the AFL-CIO is spotlighting various African American leaders and activists who have worked at the intersection of civil and labor rights, with a particular focus on voting rights. Without access to the ballot box and an assurance that everyone's vote counts, civil and labor rights are among the first to be taken away from working people. Today, we're looking at Stacey Abrams.
Stacey Abrams didn't let her loss in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election stop her from fighting for democracy. The 2018 election in Georgia was a contentious one, with Abrams losing by fewer than 55,000 votes to then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp. As secretary of state, Kemp oversaw the election race that he barely won. From the beginning, Kemp was under fire for allegations of voter suppression; and despite record turnout, Kemp became the state's governor.
At the time, Abrams refused to concede because she saw a Kemp-led election that was plagued with hourslong waits at polls (particularly those in African American neighborhoods), election server security breaches and reports of overly strict signature matching efforts that held turnout down. The election didn't seem fair.
Abrams looked at what she could do to still have an impact on the state and the country.
"What work could I do to enhance or protect our democracy," she said. "Because voting rights is the pinnacle of power in our country."
She launched Fair Fight, to not only protect the voting rights of Georgians and other Americans, but to combat voter suppression as well. She goes around the country speaking on the importance of voting rights and explaining the assault our right to vote is under. Pundits and prognosticators have been focused on whether or not she'll run for president or serve as a vice president on someone else's ticket, but she's steadfastly refused such speculation to focus on voters.
In pursuit of her goals, Abrams launched a 20-state voting rights protection tour. “We’re going to have a fair fight in 2020,” she said, “Because my mission is to make certain that no one has to go through in 2020 what we went through in 2018.” Since it's inception, Fair Fight has raised more than $20 million to fight for voting rights.
Fair Fight is designed to fight back against the many tools used to suppress the vote like strict photo ID requirements, limitations on polling place assistance, cutting of early voting hours, the closing of polling places, purging voters from state voter rolls, gerrymandering districts and others. The fight isn't limited to Georgia, either. After the gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court in 2013, states around the country have been pushing new limitations on voting, often with the direct or indirect effect of suppressing the votes of people of color, in particular.
Abrams' career is just getting started, but she's already made an impact and is shifting the focus of both punditry and money toward the important and growing problem of the assault on the voting rights of Americans.