On the heels of the 2020 presidential election, we sit down with one of politics’ most talked about rising stars, Stacey Abrams. We’re chatting about all things politics as well as Black History Month, so you can bet on reading all the details for her upcoming year!
Thank you for taking the time to talk with Georgia Voice. Since we talked to you last, you’ve been busy working away with your new organization FAIR FIGHT. How has it changed the way people make their voices heard in local elections here in Georgia?
“Fair Fight and Fair Fight Action have worked to make sure communities across Georgia can make their voices heard and have their votes counted in every single election. During the municipal elections of 2019, we organized texting and phone banks to contact Georgians to make sure they could make their voices heard. The Democratic Party of Georgia has a voter protection hotline (888-730-5816) to answer questions about voting, and we make sure voters know they can call that number year-round, including in the so-called “off years.” We invested resources to support progressive candidates where our support could make a difference. Of the 15 candidates, we endorsed, 10 won, including a new mayor of Savannah. In addition, Fair Fight Action pursued advocacy and litigation efforts that led to approximately 26,500 Georgia voters remaining on the roles – voters who otherwise would have been purged. More recently, we have begun focusing our efforts on making sure that counties and precincts have adequate resources for the March 24 presidential primary. We are holding the Secretary of State accountable for providing proper resources and training to local elections officials so every eligible Georgian can participate without hardship.”
What about on the national level? How are you working to keep voters from being silenced?
“In August 2019, we launched Fair Fight 2020, an initiative dedicated to funding, training, and supporting voter protection teams in battleground states across the country. It is crucial we take our mission nationwide because voter suppression is not confined to our state. Fair Fight 2020 is investing in voter protection infrastructure now – ensuring that our eventual Presidential, Senate, Congressional, and down-ballot nominees have a tested voter protection program to scale. In 2019, we worked with the state Democratic parties in Kentucky and Louisiana, electing governors in both states who support the LGBTQ community and Medicaid expansion. We also invested in Virginia, where the state legislature is now under full Democratic control and moving forward with legislation to ban so-called conversion therapy and protect the rights of transgender Virginians. Our work in these three states is a demonstration of how we can make progress on the issues we care about if we protect the right to free and fair elections. We are now working in 18 battleground states across the country. Fair Fight-funded program staff are building relationships with key local and state elections officials, launching state-based voter protection hotlines, and training a strong contingency of volunteer poll observers. This type of investment and the scale of it is unprecedented.”
Where does the lawsuit your organization filed in 2018 stand? Has there been any progress?
“We filed an unprecedented federal suit in the aftermath of the 2018 election against the Secretary of State challenging the constitutionality of Georgia’s election system. Last month, we filed an emergency action aimed at preventing 120,000 Georgians from being purged from the voter rolls before 2020 under the state’s ‘use it or lose it’ statute. As a result of this litigation, the Secretary of State was forced to admit a massive error and reinstate 22,000 voters to the rolls. We are currently progressing through the discovery process of the lawsuit and expect to be in trial in the spring.”
Walk us through HB 316 and what your group is doing to change it and how voters have their voices heard.
“The bill makes major changes to the way Georgians will vote. Most noteworthy, the bill replaces the 18-year old voting machines that were used in the 2018 elections. We advocated for a different system, hand-marked paper ballots, because of security concerns, but no matter the concerns about the 2020 election, it is critical that Georgians go and vote. House Bill 316 also allows two additional years before voters can be purged from the rolls under the state’s “use it or lose it” policy. Unfortunately, the Secretary of State decided not to follow that policy in his most recent purge. We are calling on the state legislature to fix House Bill 316 so that it is clear that the recent purge was illegal. Fair Fight Action is also working to make sure that counties have adequate numbers of machines that they were promised, that local election officials are given the training they need, and that the state is honest with local governments about the long-term costs of their investment. We expect a high turnout for the March 24 presidential primary, and I encourage all Georgians to participate.”
It’s an election year which means a huge race for the White House. Which candidate do you think aligns with your views on democracy and a free and fair election?
“I have met with all of the major candidates who have expressed their commitment to ending voter suppression and competing for Georgia’s 16 electoral votes. I have not endorsed a candidate, but we have an exemplary group of candidates. Regardless of the winner, I will work to make sure our nominee becomes the next president of the United States. My best contribution, for now, is ensuring that no matter who the nominee is, we are ready for the general election. To that end, I have been focused on the Fair Fight 2020 initiative, to make sure our nominee is in a strong position with robust voter protection teams in each battleground state. I also advocated national party leaders for a presidential debate to take place in Georgia.”
Michael Bloomberg has come out to fight against voter suppression. He attended one of your FAIR FIGHT events in Atlanta. Have any other candidates come on board to support your cause?
“Several of the candidates either made monetary contributions or attended Fair Fight events, and we are thrilled to have their support. Mayor Buttigieg, Senator Booker, Senator Klobuchar, and businessman Andrew Yang attended our phone and text bank, which helped save thousands of voters from being purged from the rolls. Senator Booker and Senator Sanders made monetary contributions. Vice President Biden, Senator Gillibrand, Senator Harris, Senator Sanders, and Senator Warren, as well as Congressman O’Rourke, offered strong statements about our efforts. All of the candidates have been supportive of our cause to fight voter suppression.”
Will you be endorsing any candidate anytime soon?
“I will be supporting the person who the voters choose as our nominee. No matter who wins the primary, two objectives will be paramount. One, we must come together to win the White House, the U.S. Senate and flip state chambers for redistricting; and two, we must ensure a free and fair election.”
What about the title of Vice President? There are talks that you might slip into a VP candidate slot? Is that a position you’d be interested in holding?
“Of course, I would be honored to be considered as a running mate to the Democratic nominee in the general election. My responsibility in the primary, however, is to build the infrastructure needed to combat voter suppression. Regardless of who our nominee will be, we must have robust voter protection teams on the ground in battleground states.”
What message can you send our LGBTQ people of color regarding their voices and speaking up when certain Republican politicians try to silence their votes and their voices?
“Your vote is your voice, and it is critical that you use it to elect leaders who represent the values of the LGBTQ community. It makes a big difference who we put in office. Yes, forces will attempt to silence LGBTQ voters, particularly LGBTQ people of color, but the best way to overcome voter suppression is to overwhelm the system with our votes. It is also critical for LGBTQ Georgians to remain engaged after an election, including holding elected officials at the statehouse and in local government accountable. Demand that leaders drop their threats of discriminatory legislation and to take action to stop violence committed against trans women of color. I encourage you not just to advocate for your own community, but to amplify the voices of other marginalized communities. Allies across communities strengthen the vibrancy of our electorate. Finally, we must ensure that every LGBTQ Georgian is counted in the 2020 Census so that your communities can have all the resources available to them. Not only should each person complete their Census form, please encourage your friends and neighbors to do so. Vital resources for healthcare, public safety and housing desperately needed by the LGBTQ community are tied to an accurate Census. Be counted so that you count.
When I served in the legislature, I fought religious liberty bills targeting LGBTQ Georgians because I knew my faith does not exist as a sword to strike down others, but as a shield to protect them. It is a shame our current Vice President Mike Pence and the person in the Georgia governor’s mansion see this differently and that they are willing to kill jobs and decimate the entertainment industry in the name of discrimination. With a new legislative session starting, Republicans in Georgia have not only revived the debate on RFRA; they are going further by threatening the ability of loving LGBTQ parents to foster children in our state. I believe in using my voice to lift up others. In the organizations and campaigns I have run, I am proud to have brought on a diverse group of LGBTQ team members. I was proud to serve as a Grand Marshal in the 2019 Atlanta Pride Parade, marking the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. The spirit of Stonewall lives in all of us and I’m proud to be an ally.”
Now for some fun! Aside from working with FAIR FIGHT, what keeps you smiling and laughing outside of work? What’s your favorite hobby? Any shows that you binge-watch or are your favorites?
“I enjoy reading, watching television, and I am currently finishing writing a new book. Right now, I’m watching The Good Place, Doctor Who, and Supernatural, and I’m planning to binge Picard (the latest Star Trek offering) when it launches.”
What about favorite restaurants here in Atlanta? Give us some good eats!
“Atlanta has a host of great food options, but if I have to pick a few, I enjoy Sotto Sotto, White Oak Kitchen, and Le Petite Marché.”