Greg Palast has been doing on-the-ground research about Republicans’ voter suppression tactics in the hotly contested Georgia Sixth Congressional District special election that is taking place today. He answered Truthout’s questions about some of the irregularities he has encountered.
Truthout: Tell us about voting irregularities in the primary, which resulted in Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff running against Republican Karen Handel today.
Greg Palast: It’s ugly in the Sixth. One of the worst parts is the systematic disenfranchisement of the Asian American community. For years, I’ve followed the work of the Asian-American Legal Advocacy Center, a group running a campaign to register new Americans to vote. When the group complained about thousands of the collected names missing from the voter rolls, the Secretary of State, a Republican, retaliated against them. According to attorney Nse Ufot:
They were doing a campaign to register 10,000 Korean-Americans to vote, and had quite a bit of success. At some point during the campaign, they noticed that many of the folks that they were registering were not showing up on the voter rolls. So, they reached out to the Secretary of State to say, “Hey, where are our folks? Why aren’t they showing up on the rolls?” They never got an official response. What they did get was the GBI kicking in the door and requesting all of their files.
While no charges were brought, the terrifying raid was enough to at least temporarily derail the “10,000 Korean Votes” campaign. According to a written statement sent to me yesterday by Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, the “10,000 Korean Votes” campaign ended in 2015. Since that time, the Asian American Legal Advocacy Center has ceased to exist as such, though at least some of its work is being carried on by the group that replaced it: the Atlanta branch of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, which continues to engage in voter registration efforts, according to its website.
Ufot’s own group, New Georgia Project, has also seen the registrations of new voters of color suspiciously vanish.
Ufot told me, “We submitted 86,419 voter registration forms. There are 46,000 of the folks that we’ve registered who have made it, and 40,000 of them are missing.”
So, New Georgia Project contacted the Republican Secretary of State’s office.
“You know what they told us?” Ufot asked. “‘We don’t know what you’re talking about. What forms?’ They did not disappear. We intentionally registered voters on paper forms so that we could make copies. We knew who they were. They were not on the voter rolls.”
When African American activists raised a ruckus over the disappearance, they got the same treatment as the Korean Americans: a Gestapo-style raid on their offices, threats of criminal charges and jail term.
You were down in the Georgia 6th Congressional District and were roughed up by Handel’s security. What happened? What were you trying to ask her?
At first, the GOP candidate was my best friend because I asked if the Democrats were stealing the election. She was sure of it, “They’re pulling out all the stops….”
But when the subject turned to Republicans cleansing the voter rolls of Black folk and Asian Americans, suddenly she got nasty — and her retinue got physical. One jumped between me and her and body-checked me backward, while another grabbed my arm and a third muscled me backwards.
It was more ludicrous than threatening, but it portends the GOP’s new tactic to answer tough questions.
I also wanted to ask her about those Gestapo-style raids on the Black and Asian American voter groups. The response was to be blocked out, with her supporters chanting, “USA! USA!” as if journalists are now enemies of the state. (Well, I suppose I am.)
A June 13th NBC Channel 11 poll showed the two candidates tied. What dirty tricks do you think Handel’s campaign and state officials who support her will engage in to keep the Ossoff vote down?
Now Ossoff’s a bit ahead — but they won’t let his voters vote. They’ve used the Crosscheck purge system to wrongly remove god knows how many voters in the Sixth (the subject of my Rolling Stone reports and film). When voters show up and they’ve had their names purged — or their names never made to the rolls in the first place — they’ll get provisional ballots … those placebo ballots that just won’t get counted.
They use some golden oldie Jim Crow tricks as well. One hundred thousand ballots were cast early, with almost all the early polling stations in the white area of the very large district. This has severely cut Black early voting. This will be amplified on Election Day when the polls are again concentrated in white areas, leaving Black and Asian voters to wait in lines in the Georgia heat.
Is the Democratic Party doing anything to push back against the Handel Jim Crow tactics?
Far more than other state Democratic Parties because the Georgia party is led by a brilliant, militant Black woman, Stacey Abrams. But don’t count on the Democrats to protect Black votes — it just won’t happen. But, there was a group formed in the Sixth two weeks ago, organized by Dee Hunter of the Civil Rights Project Washington, to aim particularly at Crosscheck but also at other ugly racist vote-snatching tactics. Hunter has put together a stellar group including the ACLU, Common Cause and major African American leaders which will now go on the road — to Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Texas and beyond — to educate and agitate against the sophisticated new Jim Crow.
One point I must add: vote suppressors try to steal your vote because it’s valuable. So, vote. Vote — because they don’t want you to.