ATLANTA – First it was Will Ferrell. Then came Oprah. And finally, President Barack Obama showed up.
Over the past few weeks, all sorts of celebrities and politicians have made their way down to Georgia in support of Stacey Abrams, hoping to see history made.
After voters elected Keisha Lance Bottoms to be the mayor of Atlanta last December, black voters around the city of Atlanta, in the state of Georgia, and across the country are hoping that Abrams will become the first black female governor in American history Tuesday night.
If that happens, Georgia will become the face of the Blue Wave that Democrats are hoping will wash Republicans out of office around the nation.
Because if the two most powerful people in the state of Georgia wind up being black women in the era of Trump, then anything is truly possible.
However, this particular Election Day will be one that will go down in the record books in Georgia regardless of who wins, as the gubernatorial race has grabbed the country’s attention for quite some time now.
According to reports, 2.1 million people participated in early voting in Georgia’s 2018 midterm election, and a record number of Georgians are registered to vote this year, with the number coming in at 6.9 million.
“In the last midterm election in 2014 — so four years ago — on the first day of early voting, about 21,000 people voted,” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported on her show a few weeks ago. “Yesterday, look at this, over 69,000 people voted — that’s an apples to apples comparison with the last midterm — over 69,000 people cast an in-person early ballot in Georgia yesterday, compared to 21,000 on the same day in the last midterm.”
“That’s more than triple the number of people four years ago,” Maddow noted. “That number is superhigh, even though some voters experienced the kind of hurdles we have come to expect, particularly this year in Georgia.”
“When you add in the mail-in ballots, more than 129,000 Georgians have voted already in advance of the Nov. 6 election.”
The hurdles that Maddow mentioned are part of the reason why this race has become such a huge national story.
Abrams’ Republican opponent is Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, whose job it is to oversee elections. And because of the state’s “exact match” law, some 53,000 voter registration applications were flagged. The law requires that Georgians submit information identical to that on file with the Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration. This means that something as simple as a hyphen or a misplaced accent mark would be enough to put a voter on the hold list.
And with Georgia’s population being 32% black, according to The Associated Press, the hold list is conveniently 70% black. Republicans in the Georgia state legislature passed the exact match law and are the ones implementing it. The law was passed in 2017 after Kemp settled a lawsuit charging that a previous version of the law was racially discriminatory. And while Kemp agreed to stop using it, the Republican-led legislature wrote a new version and put it into law.
“We could see the race decided by a few thousand votes and tens of thousands of legitimate voters kept from the polls,” Paul Waldman of The Washington Post wrote last month.
“Abrams has based her strategy on registering and turning out as many Democratic voters as possible, including those who haven’t participated before. Kemp’s strategy involves being the most troglodytic Trumpite he can be — and using the powers of his office to put just enough of a thumb on the scale to ensure his victory.”
If Kemp wins, Republicans around the country will celebrate it as further proof of the efficacy of their vote suppression strategy. And knowing that the Supreme Court is likely to endorse whatever new suppression tactics they come up with, they’ll move even more aggressively to restrict access to the ballot.”
Last month, the NAACP Georgia State Conference filed a lawsuit to protect the votes of those 53,000 voters, as Kemp has been accused of purging millions of voter registrations since 2012 and 670,000 in 2017 alone, according to NBC News.
“It’s about protecting our democracy, the integrity of the vote and the political power of the black community,” said NAACP Georgia State President Phyllis Blake.
“We are asking for the eyes of the nation to pay attention to Georgia because if this can happen here, our vote is in danger everywhere.”
It’s gotten so bad that even former President Jimmy Carter wrote an official letter to Kemp, asking him to resign from his position as Georgia secretary of state.
On Tuesday morning, there were even reports across the state that voters were having troubles at the polls at multiple locations across different counties due to polling computers being down.
According to WSB-TV, an ABC-affiliated TV station in Atlanta, Kemp was one of the voters that had issues at the polls using the system that he’s in charge of. Apparently, when Kemp’s voter card said “invalid, ” causing him to have to get a new one.
NBC News reported that Kemp’s campaign said it was a “non-issue” and that Kemp had a blank card. The issue quickly fixed.
For months now, this entire race has been clouded by drama and political antics that include everything from voter suppression to candidates pulling out of debates at the last minute.
Which is why the anticipation around this election has captured a national audience. Because if Abrams is victorious, it will be because people who don’t usually vote in midterm elections came out to support her, despite the roadblocks.