On Monday, the first day of in-person early voting in Georgia, dozens of black senior citizens were ordered off a bus taking them to a nearby polling station to cast their ballots. A county clerk for Jefferson County, Ga., had ordered a senior center to take about 40 of its residents—all of whom are black—off the bus because local officials felt “uncomfortable” with allowing the seniors onto a bus with an “unknown third party.”
That third party? Black Voters Matter, a non-partisan group that arranged for the bus to take the seniors to vote.
As Think Progress first reported, Black Voters Matter has been conducting voter outreach and engagement throughout the state in the lead up to the midterm elections. After an event at the nearby Leisure Center in Louisville (also in Georgia) extolling the importance of voting, Black Voters Matter invited the seniors onto their bus to head to their polling place.
But as they were preparing to leave, a director for the senior center ordered the eager would-be voters off the bus. A Jefferson county administrator had called the center, which is county-operated, with concerns, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
County Administrator Adam Brett said in a statement to the AJC, “Jefferson County administration felt uncomfortable with allowing senior center patrons to leave the facility in a bus with an unknown third party.”
“No seniors at the Jefferson County senior center were denied their right to vote,” Brett claimed.
But LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said the move was an intimidation tactic.
“Even in the absence of law, they will use tactics like intimidation and voter suppression,” Brown told Think Progress. “Somebody called the county commission, but there was nothing illegal or inappropriate.”
Brown told the AJC that Black Voters Matter had secured permission from the senior center for the voter outreach event. While it was originally planned to help rally and encourage seniors to vote, Black Voters Matter say some of the seniors asked whether they could be taken to an early-polling site once the event ended.
The news comes amidst growing concern over voter suppression tactics in Georgia. In a hotly-contested governor’s race, Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams has called on Republican candidate and Secretary of State Brian Kemp to resign as the state’s election chief. Her call follows an AP report that found Georgia put a hold on more than 53,000 voter registration applications because they didn’t meet the state’s “exact match” standard.
Nearly 70 percent of the deferred applications belong to black residents, the AP writes.
Fortunately, the senior citizens remain undeterred, and simply plan on casting their ballot later.
“The seniors were so resolved. They said: ‘We’re going to vote. Nobody’s going to stop us,’” Brown told the AJC. “It wasn’t the first time someone has denied them or tried to prevent them from voting.”