This situation should alarm all of us. Our vote is our voice and every time we use it, we get to have our say - irrespective of color, gender or class. The ballot is the embodied and hard-fought expression of the American covenant, “We the people.” That grand and noble experiment is being threatened, not only by Kemp’s antics but also by a wave of similar voter suppression tactics sweeping across the country.
Americans should be deeply concerned by these unfounded, fear-driven tactics because nothing less than the soul of our country is at stake. In America, we have exciting, noisy, contentious and sometimes flat-out rambunctious arguments about everything from taxes and healthcare to the price of milk and bread. However, those who seek to win the argument, or the office, must convince the people. And in the end, the people - all the people - get to speak at the ballot box. That is the precious covenant we have with one another.
That covenant, a commitment to the soul of our democracy, is why we are suing Brian Kemp and that is why we must also meet rabid voter suppression with massive voter mobilization. Americans cannot allow politicians to steal our voice, whether through partisan gerrymandering, onerous voter ID laws or this deeply flawed process of “exact match” that has proven to be particularly biased against women and voters of color.
The truth is, we have seen a type of “exact match” before. It was utilized by politicians of the Jim Crow era who asked black people desiring to register to vote to tell them, “Exactly how many bubbles are there in this bar of soap?” or “How many beans are there in this jar?” Let us not return to this sinister era.
A much more apt and relevant question is this. How long before we decide to stand up and once again reclaim the soul of our democracy. I submit that the time is now.
Rev. Raphael G. Warnock is chairman of the New Georgia Project and pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.