Stacey Abrams Is Open to Being the Vice President
In recent years, a wave of GOP-led states, under the guise of staving off voter fraud, have pushed initiatives including voter ID laws and voter-roll purges that functionally serve to suppress voter turnout—and which disproportionately target Democratic voters. It’s a problem for Democrats that has only worsened since the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, which ended federal oversight of elections in states with a history of racial discrimination. For whomever secures the Democratic nomination, voter suppression could be a significant obstacle between them and the presidency.
“We expect 2020 to be a banner year for voter suppression, especially given what’s at stake in the elections,” says J. Gerald Hebert, the senior director of voting rights and redistricting at Georgetown University’s Campaign Legal Center. “When you think about the fact that we’ve not only had recent widespread measures of voter suppression, but we’ve had foreign election interference, I think protecting the right to vote is more important now than it has been in a long, long time.”
But even as the 2020 candidates have engaged in rigorous policy debates on a slew of issues ranging from health care to climate change to immigration, voter suppression has hardly registered. In two rounds of Democratic debates featuring nearly two dozen candidates, voting rights were only discussed in passing, with Senator Kamala Harris of California promising to “fight against voter suppression” and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey arguing that voter suppression played a role in President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory.
Abrams has held several private meetings with 2020 candidates urging them to focus on the issue, according to the Times, particularly in purplish states like Georgia. But most candidates have not articulated a plan on how to combat voter suppression—a notable exception is South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose Douglass Plan includes a proposal for a “21st Century Voting Rights Act.”
In addition to threatening the most basic tenant of citizenship, voter suppression can also contribute to a less tangible problem: political fatigue. Americans need to have confidence that their votes count, literally and figuratively. “The strength of our democracy requires that people believe that, whatever they think of the results, the process is fair and reflects what the majority of American citizens believe should be the results,” says Andrea Young, the executive director of the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The eventual Democratic nominee may find that Abrams makes for an alluring vice-presidential pick in part because of her own experience with voter suppression and her ability to speak to disenchanted voters personally affected by it. More than perhaps other potential VP pick, Abrams could have an ability to make certain that her party doesn’t lose sight of the urgency of voter suppression. And Abrams, a black woman, has also shown the ability to mobilize black voters, a highly sought-after constituency that Democrats need to turn out in order to oust Trump.