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Why Stacey Abrams sees reason for optimism in the Georgia primary voting mess



Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Quaker Oats finally retires its “Aunt Jemima” branding, Patty Quillin and Reed Hastings make a historic donation to HBCUs, and we talk with Stacey Abrams. Have a lovely Thursday. 

– ‘Progress is possible.’ One-time Georgia gubernatorial candidate and voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, a Democrat, has a new book out and Emma interviewed her about it.

Abrams’s new title, Our Time Is Now, is landing in the midst of three enormous, simultaneous crises: the coronavirus pandemic, the societal unrest and upheaval over police brutality and racial inequality, and the growing concern about voting access in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Emma’s exchange with Abrams covers all three topics and starkly illustrates the overlap between them.

The pandemic, Abrams says, threatens to force voters in November to “choose between their health and the right to vote.” What’s urgently needed are resources for vote-by-mail and early voting efforts. “It is a constitutional requirement that we hold this election, therefore this is a responsibility on the part of the federal government to invest in making sure those elections can happen,” she said.

Voting has become a flashpoint in the ongoing protest movement as some leaders—former President Barack Obama included—have urged demonstrators to vote for the change they want to see. The advice has drawn some skepticism. “Going to vote is a critical part of the solution—it’s just not the only thing,” Abrams said. “Voting is an essential part of the solution,” but it can feel inadequate, especially when floated as a protest alternative. Her advice: “protest in the streets, and then protest at the ballot boxes.”

Abrams’s 2018 loss in Georgia’s gubernatorial race came in an election tainted by accusations that her opponent engaged in voter suppression. That experience “was emblematic of a larger problem in our country,” she said, one that was underscored by Georgia’s recent primary debacle. The meltdown, in which voting machines broke and voters waited in hours-long lines, signaled “that this wasn’t just about a single election,” she said. “The system itself is not structured to deliver the democracy it should.”

Even with the plain failings of the Georgia primary, Abrams saw reason for optimism, with Democrats reporting record turnout. It showed “that progress is possible, especially when we don’t allow voter suppression to defeat us and instead use it to galvanize us. That record turnout did not diminish the existence of suppression, but it challenged it. We have the power now to demand better.”

You can read Emma’s full interview—including Abrams’s response to the perennial Biden VP question—here.

Claire Zillman

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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