Taking a page out of the 1950s, Republicans have pretty much stopped trying to compete in elections and gone full Jim Crow in Georgia, yanking Black people off local election boards and replacing them with conservative whites, including ride-or-die Trumpists who pushed lies about the 2020 vote.
The purges of at least six county election boards is a direct, but less publicized result of new election rules that Georgia’s GOP-controlled legislature passed after Democrats swept the state’s senate races and helped deliver the White House to President Joe Biden. While most attention has been paid to fact that the new election law is a naked effort to keep Black and Hispanic voters from the polls, the law also lets Republicans take control of local election authorities altogether.
It’s an important step because Georgia’s elections are run by local officials including voting boards like one in Spalding County, where Reuters reports that four Black local election officials—all Dems—have been replaced by white Republicans, who immediately banned Sunday early voting in the county.
But this was an entirely different five-member board than had overseen the last election. The Democratic majority of three Black women was gone. So was the Black elections supervisor. Now a faction of three white Republicans controlled the board – thanks to a bill passed by the Republican-led Georgia legislature earlier this year. The Spalding board’s new chairman has endorsed former president Donald Trump’s false stolen-election claims on social media.
The panel in Spalding, a rural patch south of Atlanta, is one of six county boards that Republicans have quietly reorganized in recent months through similar county-specific state legislation. The changes expanded the party’s power over choosing members of local election boards ahead of the crucial midterm Congressional elections in November 2022.
The unusual rash of restructurings follows the state’s passage of Senate Bill 202, which restricted ballot access statewide and allowed the Republican-controlled State Election Board to assume control of county boards it deems underperforming. The board immediately launched a performance review of the Democratic-leaning Fulton County board, which oversees part of Atlanta.
As Georgia shifts from a solidly red state with a legislature controlled by conservative whites to a swing state with a browning population, Republicans feel their grip on power slipping. Atlanta politics is still dominated by Democrats, even as white voters slightly outnumbered Black voters in the 2020 presidential election. Georgia now has more Black woman legislators than any other state, and all of them are Democrats. Stacey Abrams, the powerhouse political organizer, has a $100 million war chest and is running for governor again next year.