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Stacey Abrams’ Appeal for Voting Rights

“This is the next battle for our democracy,” Abrams said in her response to the State of the Union.

February 7, 2019

Stacey Abrams called for expanded voting rights and election reform in her response to the State of the Union address on Tuesday. In a speech in Atlanta, Abrams, the former Georgia House minority leader and the 2018 Democratic candidate for governor, drew attention to the urgent and growing threat of voter suppression in the United States.

“Let’s be clear: voter suppression is real,” said Abrams. “From making it harder to register and stay on the rolls to moving and closing polling places to rejecting lawful ballots, we can no longer ignore these threats to democracy.”

A fight against voter suppression in Georgia

Voter suppression was a considerable concern throughout Abrams’ run for governor in 2018, which she lost to Brian Kemp, a Republican who also served as Georgia’s secretary of state during the campaign.

Under Kemp’s supervision, Georgia adopted a range of controversial voting practices. These practices included a strict “exact match policy” and some of the most aggressive voter purges in the country.

A nationwide fight for democracy and the right to vote

In her speech on Tuesday, Abrams focused on the right to vote. “The foundation of our moral leadership around the globe is free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders — not where politicians pick their voters,” said Abrams. 

The speech took place during a week in which Congress held hearings for the For the People Act (also known as H.R. 1), a comprehensive anti-corruption and election reform bill. The legislation includes an extensive list of voting rights provisions, including automatic voter registration, nationwide early voting, renewal of the Voting Rights Act, and restoration of voting rights for people with criminal convictions.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly criticized H.R. 1. In his remarks on the Senate floor, he claimed without evidence that an H.R. 1 provision for making Election Day a federal holiday represented a “power grab” by the Democratic Party. 

On Tuesday, Abrams seemed to denounce McConnell’s comments. “This is the next battle for our democracy, one where all eligible citizens can have their say about the vision we want for our country,” she said. “We must reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counted is a ‘power grab.’”

(Image: ABC Pool/AP)