On Monday, a Black Voters Matter bus was blocked from taking seniors to vote in Louisville, Georgia. Early voting began that day in the state. Although arrangements had been properly made, the bus was chartered and insured, and the center is not a 24/7 nursing home or assisted living facility but a come-and-go community center, about 40 Black seniors were told to get off the bus.
It was an incidence of what organizers described as “voter intimidation” and “live voter suppression.”
Apparently, a passerby saw the seniors—who are mostly women—dancing and celebrating, excited to vote as they prepared to board the Black Voters Matters bus in front of the Leisure Center in Louisville. That passerby made a phone call to the Jefferson County Commissioner’s office to tell them that they couldn’t allow this. (While Jefferson County is more than 53 percent Black or African-American, the Board of County Commissioners chairman and members are—like most elected officials in Georgia—overwhelmingly white.) The county clerk proceeded to order the senior center to remove the elderly Black voters from the bus.
Earlier in the day, the Black Voters Matter group made a video and held what co-founder LaTosha Brown called “an amazing, nonpartisan rally” at the center to pump up enthusiasm and get people excited about voting. In the video, co-founder Cliff Albright said that the seniors were “fired up, high energy, excited to go spread the word to their folks, excited to go vote.” Seeing a large, passionate group of Black voters about to head to the polls was evidently a threat to the observer who alerted county authorities.
Albright and Brown also believe that the bus was halted from transporting those voters because of the power that the bus itself symbolizes.
Black Voters Matter is crisscrossing the state of Georgia in a bus emblazoned with the slogan, “THE SOUTH IS RISING” along with images of raised fists. Yet these are not subversive, violently confrontational images. They are images that illustrate the power of asserting the right to vote. They are images that encourage civic engagement. They are images that inspire Black people to choose their own leaders and to make their voices heard. And Jefferson County, Georgia—a county that is mostly African American but has mostly white male Republican leadership—is not a place where Black citizens have proper representation in government.
After the bus incident, Jefferson County officials released a statement explaining their decision to have the voters removed and not taken to the polls. In it, they claim that political activities are not allowed at the center, which is operated by the county, and that they “felt uncomfortable” permitting the center’s patrons “to leave the facility in a bus with an unknown third party.” They also claim that the seniors were not prevented from voting since they can vote at other specified times using center-provided transportation.
According to Think Progress, Jefferson County Commission Chairman Mitchell McGraw did not respond to an email seeking comment.
You can help Black Voters Matter in their efforts to reach Black voters and to defend against rampant voter suppression. Visit the official website for volunteer links, action toolkits, and information on making donations.