Ebenezer pastor pushes back on Sunday voting attack

Updated at 7:25 p.m.: The Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, pastor of historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, has sent us a statement responding to the statement by state Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, promising that DeKalb County's first stab at Sunday voting would be its last:

Georgians everywhere should be scratching their heads asking, why is State Senator Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, an elected official so angry and perturbed by the prospect of more American citizens participating in the electoral process? And why is he vowing to use the legislative power entrusted to him by the people to undermine the electoral power of the people by killing Sunday voting?

As the May primary showed once again, our democracy does not suffer from too much voter participation but just the opposite. Sunday voting, as a logical extension of early voting, offers a common-sense correction to low voter turnout by affording ordinary families who cannot so easily get to the polls during their work-a-day lives, another opportunity to exercise that basic and sacred American right - the right to vote.

This is not a partisan issue, as Mr. Millar's statement would suggest. It is certainly not a racial issue. And that he would argue otherwise is shameful and disturbing. Senator Millar's statement that he would prefer "more educated" voters rather than those who attend "several large African-American mega churches" in DeKalb County is a clear and unabashed echo from our ugly and painful racial past. How does he propose to determine who is more educated? Literacy tests? Grandfather clauses? Poll taxes? We have been there before.

Senator's Millar's kind of thinking has no place in our politics. While he boasts that he has an NAACP award, as if that shields him from the wrongheadedness of his recent remarks and threats, he should not kid himself. So does Donald Sterling. Fran Millar must apologize immediately for this insult to the African American community and to the fine people of Georgia for suggesting the worst about who we are today. Moreover, rather than condemning DeKalb County, elected officials across the home state of Martin Luther King, Jr. should join DeKalb in this common sense effort to strengthen our democracy.

Updated at 9 p.m.: The reply from state Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody:

Reverend Warnock, this is about partisan politics. When you only have Sunday voting in select precincts with traditional one party strength, then there is a fairness issue. If it was only Perimeter Mall rather than South DeKalb Mall, then that would be wrong.

My comment about educated voter was made in the context of for me being more important than just more people voting. Having people informed on issues such as transportation, education, taxation, etc would be a good thing versus voting based on sound bites.

Finally, as a recipient of the Thurgood Marshall award from the DeKalb NAACP, I do resent people trying to play the race card on me (not referring to you). My article dealt with three issues where I felt the CEO was not being fair to all parties in the County and I am disappointed that this behavior persists - hence the title the honeymoon is over.

Be happy to talk with you.

Original post: An angry state Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, is promising to end Sunday balloting in DeKalb County when state lawmakers assemble in the Capitol next January.

The vows is contained in this response to news that DeKalb County will reserve Oct. 26 for early voting – with one of the polling stations at the Gallery at South DeKalb, a.k.a. South DeKalb mall. Other Democratically controlled counties are predicted to follow the example. From Millar:

How ironic! Michele Obama comes to town and Chicago politics comes to DeKalb.

For the third time in recent months Governor Deal appointee Interim CEO Lee May has disappointed those of us that hoped he could help bring the county together.

First, he assembles a task force of 15 with no elected Republicans to review various aspects of county government. I called his hand and Representative Jacobs and I were asked to serve on the group. This seems like a good idea since legislation will be required for many changes.

Second, he schedules meetings throughout the county with Tucker being the only north location. Again, I called his hand and several north locations were added with little publicity.

Now we are to have Sunday voting at South DeKalb Mall just prior to the election. Per Jim Galloway of the AJC, this location is dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches such as New Birth Missionary Baptist. Galloway also points out the Democratic Party thinks this is a wonderful idea – what a surprise. I’m sure Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter are delighted with this blatantly partisan move in DeKalb.

Is it possible church buses will be used to transport people directly to the mall since the poll will open when the mall opens? If this happens, so much for the accepted principle of separation of church and state.

Interim CEO May says this election decision is an administrative matter and he can unilaterally make this decision. I don’t think this is necessarily true and we are investigating if there is any way to stop this action.

This may be another reason to eliminate the CEO position.

I have spoken with Representative Jacobs and we will try to eliminate this election law loophole in January. Galloway summed it up, “Democrats are showing their hand on how they might boost their numbers”. For this to be called a “non-partisan opportunity” by Interim CEO is an insult!

Another first for DeKalb! So much for being inclusive.

Updated at 2:10 p.m.: Here's the response from DuBose Porter, chairman of the state Democratic party:

“What have Georgia Republicans come to when they are outwardly admitting to suppressing the African-American vote? Further, his comments about ‘educated voters’ are reprehensible. I suppose Fran would prefer a return to literacy tests or the poll tax while he’s at it.

“Access to the polls is not a loophole—it’s a guaranteed right. And it’s Fran’s responsibility to make sure that the tens of thousands of voters in his district have every opportunity to make their voice heard. Anything less than that is reckless and frankly un-American.

“As Democrats, our mission is clear—to ensure every eligible voter can register, that every registered voter can vote, and that every vote is accurately counted. Even in the face of this brazen and discriminatory move by Republicans, we will continue to work toward the expansion of voting access. It is our civic responsibility.”

Updated at 3:24 p.m.: Millar has passed along this rebuttal:

Jim, my article dealt with three recent incidents where the CEO basically ignored large portions of north DeKalb. I was told by Lee May yesterday that South DeKalb mall was the voting site and nothing was worked out with other mall locations. Your article was the third incident.

Furthermore, in a Facebook discussion,  I defined educated as being informed on the issues. Finally Mr. Porter is welcome to look at my DeKalb NAACP award, so don't try to accuse me of trying to suppress the African-American vote. The good news is that I believe Brookhaven is being added Monday through Friday the week before the election. Bottom line CEO May's actions are viewed by many as divisive. Thank you for allowing me to respond.

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About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.