About 40 African-American senior citizens were on board a bus powered by the group Black Voters Matter to go vote on Monday, Oct. 15, when a Georgia government official ordered them off, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
LaTosha Brown, a co-founder of Black Voters Matter said that the group was about to depart from the senior center operated by Jefferson County when the center’s director said they needed to disembark.
Apparently a county clerk had called the senior center raising concerns about allowing the bus to take residents from the center for politically motivated reasons.
Jefferson County’s administrator said Tuesday that the county government considered the event at the senior center “political activity,” which isn’t allowed during county-sponsored events.
“We knew it was an intimidation tactic,” Brown told AJC. “It was really unnecessary. These are grown people.”
— Black Voters Matter (@BlackVotersMtr) August 24, 2018
Early voting began in Georgia on Monday with all eyes on the state due to allegations of voter suppression by Republican gubernatorial candidate and current Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
The Georgia NAACP recently issued a lawsuit to the state for voter suppression with an estimated 53,000 votes being thrown out under Kemp’s tutelage.
Kemp is facing challenger Democrat Stacy Abrams, who if elected will become the first African-American woman governor in the United State’s history.
Abrams candidacy has upped the ante for Get Out The Vote groups especially Black Voters Matter in Georgia.
Black Voters Matter is a nonpartisan group that encourages African-Americans to vote in state and national elections.
The organization said they received permission in advance for the event at the center and taking the seniors to an early voting location was their (seniors) idea.
Brown believes the bus painted with the words “The South is Rising Tour,” drew the wrong attention from the wrong person and they called county government offices, which led to the senior citizens being asked to leave the bus — they peacefully agreed vowing to vote another day.
While taking seniors and other groups to vote by bus is a common occurrence during election season this effort was stalled because Jefferson County Democratic Party Chairwoman Diane Evans helped organize it, County Administrator Adam Brett said in a statement.
These senior citizens just got on the @BlackVotersMtr bus to go vote, but someone in Jefferson County called the commissioner and said the bus didn’t have the proper license to drive people to the polls. The seniors, who were fired up to vote, won’t be casting ballots today. pic.twitter.com/vI93pU85Ln
— Kira Lerner (@kira_lerner) October 15, 2018
“Jefferson County administration felt uncomfortable with allowing senior center patrons to leave the facility in a bus with an unknown third party,” Brett said. “No seniors at the Jefferson County senior center were denied their right to vote.”
Evans said the event wasn’t political, nor did its organizers advocate for any candidates and that she was just helping as a private citizen, pastor and community leader, not as the chairwoman of the county’s Democratic Party.
“It was discouraging that they weren’t able to vote,” Evans, who was on the bus said. “When they’re suppressing votes, they’re going to come up with any kind of excuse about what your problem is.”