A day after she announced she would be contesting for the governor’s mansion in 2024, having come close to being the nation’s first Black woman elected governor, the 47-year-old said it was essential Congress passed laws that made voting fairer.
She said that in 2018 she watched as her opponent, Republican Brian Kemp, was able to win by less than two per cent of the vote, following what she said was “egregious” voter suppression.
She said many states controlled by Republican legislatures were passing laws that would restrict access to the ballot, particularly for people of colour and the poor.
“Congress – especially the US Senate – has to understand that action is vital,” she said, speaking on MSNBC, as she listed the threats to voting already taking place. “We’re seeing that play out with the gerrymandering. We’re seeing it play out in how election workers are under attack.”
Under President Joe Biden, Democrats have tried to pass two pieces of legislation that would safeguard voting. But while the two bills – the For The People Act, and the attendant John Lewis Voting Rights Act – have passed the House, they have been stalled in the Senate as a result of Republican opposition.
“Are we going to backslide here in the 21st century,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said this summer, before the bill failed to pass.
“Are we going to let reactionary state legislatures drag us back into the muck of voter suppression?”
In the three years since her defeat, Ms Abrams, who considered the late John Lewis to be a mentor and inspiration, has focused on expanding the Democratic turnout across the country. Indeed, many credit her work with helping Mr Biden win the state of Georgia in 2020’s presidential election, the first Democrat to take the state since 1992.
In her interview with Rachel Maddow, Ms Abrams said she was optimistic that Democrats could pass the two bills that had been stalled.
“What we’ve watched over the last 10 months on voting rights, has been a shift among those who were not standing with us and are now standing and leading on the issue,” she said.
“We have seen changes made in the language to protect our voters, to protect our election workers, to protect our democracy. And we’re continuing to see progress. I am very bullish on the likelihood that the For The People Act, and John Lewis Voting Rights Act will pass.”
When she was defeated in 2018, Ms Abrams technically declined to concede to Mr Kemp.
“Let’s be clear: This is not a speech of concession because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper,” she had said. “As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that.”
Asked about her words that night, Ms Abrams sought to draw a distinction between what she had done, and Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge Mr Biden’s victory last November.
“I did not challenge the outcome of the election, unlike some recent folks did. What I said was that the system was not fair,” she said.
In a video announcing her candidacy, for what is almost certain to be a rematch with Mr Kemp, the incumbent, Ms Abrams said “opportunity and success in Georgia shouldn’t be determined by background or access to power.”
She said she would provide “leadership that knows how to do the job, leadership that doesn’t take credit without also taking responsibility, leadership that understands the true pain that folks are feeling and has real plans”.
She added: “That’s the job of governor, to fight for one Georgia, our Georgia.”
Additional reporting by Associated Press
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