By Andrew Hairston
Georgia remains on my mind.
Our Power & Democracy Co-program Director and Senior Attorney Donita Judge and I recently journeyed to the great state of Georgia ahead of the November 2018 election. Advancement Project’s Power & Democracy program is hitting the road to ensure that no election administration irregularities arise prior to Election Day – particularly given the high-profile nature of a few races throughout the South. (Have you see seen our petition urging Georgia’s Secretary of State to recuse himself from monitoring the very election he’s running in?) To achieve this goal, we decided to attend various meetings of Boards of Elections and Boards of County Commissioners throughout Georgia.
We began our journey by flying into Atlanta and driving to nearby Clayton County. The first stop of our work trip was at a public meeting of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners. Although all of the business that transpired was relatively routine, it’s always refreshing to see engaged residents robustly participating in the local government process.
The following day, our travels took us to Dougherty County in southwest Georgia. Albany, the seat of the county, is an idyllic town that exudes a charm that one can only find in the South. The primary purpose of our visit was to observe a Dougherty County Board of Elections meeting. Like in Clayton County, the passion of citizen advocacy was on full display.
During the meeting, an older, Black gentleman, Mr. Wright, reminded the board of the recent debacle in Randolph County, expressed the need for the county to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act, and urged the board to extend the availability of early voting to Dougherty County residents. After a period of deliberation, the board ultimately voted to grant an additional day of early voting on Sunday, October 28. Mr. Wright’s powerful testimony stood as a testament to the necessity of recognizing American racial discrimination in voting, as well as anticipating the challenges of the future.
The final day of the trip took us from Dougherty County to the sprawling Macon-Bibb County. A meeting of the Macon County Board of Commissioners represented the last meeting of the trip. It was a brief 25-minute meeting, with only one county resident present; the event matched the stoic and refined beauty of Oglethorpe, the town where the Commissioners gathered. Our visit reinforced the idea that the allure of Georgia flows from the engagement of its populace, their recognition of the past, and their proactive preparation for the future.
Advancement Project’s national office will continue our voter protection work throughout the rest of this election cycle and beyond, including Florida, Missouri, Virginia and returning to Georgia. Follow us by using #WeVoteWeCount.
Andrew Hairston is a staff attorney at Advancement Project’s national office.