US election: Stacey Abrams celebrated as driving force behind Biden’s Georgia lead

Voting rights activist founded Fair Fight initiative in 2018, adding 800,000 new names to electoral rolls

Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 10 November 2020 09:50
US election results - live updates: Trump loses lead over Biden in Georgia as new Pennsylvania count imminent

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has a narrow lead in the southern state of Georgia, ahead by just 1,098 votes on Friday as secretary of state Brad Raffensperger announced a recount would be necessary to determine the winner.

If the state does ultimately turn blue for the first time since 1992, the first person Mr Biden will want to thank is activist Stacey Abrams, whose Fair Fight campaign has worked tirelessly over the last two years to stamp to promote electoral rights and fight voter suppression in the Peach State and beyond.

Born in Madison, Wisconsin, and raised in Gulfport, Mississippi, Ms Abrams is a Yale Law School graduate and, prior to serving six years in the Georgia House of Representatives, authored no fewer than eight romance novels under the pen name “Selena Montgomery”.

She ran for governor in the 2018 midterms but narrowly lost out to Republican Brian Kemp in a contest that was marred by allegations that African American votes were being suppressed. 

Specifically, concerns abounded that the state’s “exact match” law has been used as a pretext to have 534,000 voter registrations scrubbed from the electoral roll over the preceding two years.

According to the Palast Investigative Fund, 340,000 were improperly removed on the incorrect basis that the person concerned had moved house.

The purging process also meant that 53,000 registrations were left pending with less than two weeks to go before the vote, often as a result of typos or minor grammatical technicalities, 70 per cent of which related to black voters who might have been expected to turn out for Ms Abrams, The New York Times wrote at the time.

Mr Kemp was Georgia’s secretary of state at the time and declined to recuse himself from matters pertaining to the electoral roll.

After being defeated by an opponent she dubbed “the architect of voter suppression” and by just 55,000 votes, Ms Abrams “sat shiva for 10 days” and then dedicated herself to ensuring history would not be allowed to repeat itself in a state that was once a heartland for slavery and segretation but which was also the birthplace of the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

Her response was to found Fair Fight in August 2019 to tackle the problem of voter suppression both in Georgia and on a national scale.

A supremely ambitious expansion of the state-level New Georgia Project she founded as a representative in 2013, her campaign has reportedly empowered 800,000 new voters to join the electoral roll since 2018, enabling fresh Democratic support to come forward and cast its vote, as is the right of every American citizen.

“In no uncertain terms, if Georgia clinches Biden the presidency, he has Abrams (who had been a reported VP contender) to thank,” Vogue magazine wrote on Friday.

With Mr Biden indeed seemingly on the cusp of winning the southern state, the contribution of Ms Abrams is being given its due, with celebrities John Legend and Jordan Peele among those leading the tributes to her exceptional organising efforts.

“A tin-pot dictatorship can happen in the United States,” Stacey Abrams warned Reuters in August, explaining her commitment to Fair Fight.

“We have seen other steady democracies fall in recent years, and we cannot believe that the America we love is immune.”

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