Georgia

Black seniors kicked off bus going to polls because Georgia officials were ‘uncomfortable’

Dozens of seniors were told to leave a bus that was on its way to the polls in Georgia.
Dozens of seniors were told to leave a bus that was on its way to the polls in Georgia. Black Votes Matter/Video screenshot

Dozens of black senior citizens were asked to leave a bus that was taking them to the polls Monday in Jefferson County, GA., the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The bus was owned by Black Votes Matter, a non-partisan group that visited a senior center in Louisville, Ga., to encourage people to vote.

“This is voter suppression, Southern style,” said LaTosha Brown, a co-founder of the group, according to the progressive website ThinkProgress. “I’m very upset. I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’ve got a lot of emotions right now.”

Video posted by Black Votes Matter showed the seniors dancing outside next to the bus.

“They were fired up, high energy, excited to go spread the word to their folks, excited to go vote ... getting on the bus to go vote at the polling place,” co-founder Cliff Albright said in the video.

But when folks got on the bus to go vote, a call came in for them to get off, according to the group.

“Someone had passed by and saw the seniors getting on the bus, and called the county commissioners’ office to tell them that we can’t do that,” Brown said in the video.

The video shows the organizers telling the seniors on the bus that they have to get off, but that it was okay because they were still going to get out and vote later.

“We are still going to vote! Can’t stop us!” some of the seniors say.

“There’s not a candidate on this bus, there’s not a party symbol on this bus, but I’m going to tell you what is on this bus: a whole bunch of black fists in the air with the word power underneath it. That’s what scared them ... “ Albright said later in the video.

The county released a statement saying there was a “long-standing practice” thatpolitical activities were not allowed “during normal business hours or at ,County sponsored activities,” and that the senior center is a county service, reported WRDW.

The county also said officials were “uncomfortable with allowing Senior Center patrons to leave the facility in a bus with an unknown third party,” and that the event was considered political because it had been organized by county Democratic Party president Diane Evans, according to the station.

“It was discouraging that they weren’t able to vote,” Evans said, according to the AJC. “When they’re suppressing votes, they’re going to come up with any kind of excuse about what your problem is.”

The county said the government regularly provides bus service for the seniors so they can vote, according to WRDW.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund sent a letter to the county calling the incident “voter intimidation” and demanded an investigation, according to ThinkProgress.

In another video, Brown said Black Votes Matter decided not to take the seniors to vote despite the requests from the county because the director of the center was “shaken” and the group was “sensitive about people’s livelihood.”

Georgia has been embroiled in controversy over purported efforts to suppress voter turnout for the midterm election. Brian Kemp, a governor candidate for the state, is overseeing his own election as secretary of state, raising questions about possible conflicts.

Other reports have pointed to more than 50,000 registrations held up due to Georgia’s “exact match” voter verification law, absentee ballots being rejected and the closures of polling places across the state.

Kemp has denied allegations of voter suppression, and a spokesperson said the candidate was “fighting to protect the integrity of our elections and ensure that only legal citizens cast a ballot,” according to the Associated Press.

Professor Trey Hood of the University of Georgia discusses Georgia's changing demographics and the 2016 elections.

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