Starting on June 12th, Hope Springs from Field PAC began canvassing in the Black Belt of Georgia, repeating our steps in the Georgia Senate Runoff, with a special emphasis on helping voters without the newly required photo IDs to obtain them. When investigating the kinds of IDs that a voter could use, our intrepid organizers from Albany State saw this, “An ID card can be issued at any county registrar’s office.” For voters without a photo ID, this seemed like an obvious place to go get one. Driver Services offices were notoriously crowded, everyone knows stories of rude or even offensive employees, and no one thought it a good idea to put voters who didn’t already have that identification through that. In fact, these kids believed that the biggest reason people in the African-American community wouldn’t have the proper ID was the embarrassment factor. Paperwork is also an issue, we’ve learned as we have started finding voters who need to obtain ID.
The offer of a free photo ID that would qualify voters to vote (in person or to request an absentee ballot) is used prominently to defend this new legislation in court. It’s not an issue, Republicans say, because anyone can get the required ID at their local county registrar’s office. So we asked the Dougherty County Registrar’s Office if they were prepared to issue the promised voter cards (see above). And they weren’t — but the Secretary of State’s office had promised them (the Registrar’s Office) that they would have the means to be able to. A month out, we agreed with that office on a date where they said they would be prepared to issue them.
We also asked how many voters on their rolls didn’t register with a Driver’s License, and the response was “a lot, there are a considerable number.” They had been thinking about it, too. And they made sure that the Georgia Secretary of State, which was supposed to pay for it, knew that they would be getting voters who were going to request Voter ID Cards. For which they were supposed to provide the funding, because it wasn’t like this county government agency, in a poor county, had the means to get the equipment and stock to fulfill this state government mandate.
So we have been informing voters, when we canvassed, of the new voter laws and requirements, making sure they were aware of the promise that these photo ID cards would be available at the registrar’s office. We also made sure the Black churches, the anchor in African-American communities, knew, as well. In the weeks since the 12th, we have found dozens of voters who admitted they didn’t have the needed ID. And more than two dozen agreed to participate in our test of the Dougherty County Registrar’s Office last Thursday (the 29th). In the belief that these mostly older, African-American citizens needed to see and feel the support of their community, we’ve also been asking people who had the necessary identification to join us in supporting those who came out to get their free photo ID cards from the Registrar’s Office. Well over 200 people signed up to participate, a significant number of them pastors from the county’s Black churches, as well as community leaders and activists. “They won’t stop us from voting,” one poster at a church said. Members of the Divine Nine sororities in the county were central to this effort to build up support to help make it easy for those without the required ID to feel comfortable in getting them. “We’re asking for them. They don’t need to ask for themselves. They just need to get in line.”
As our list grew, we made sure that the county employees from the Registrar’s office were kept abreast of developments. Unlike the Driver Services office, the Registrar’s office didn’t expect any other constituent to be there. It’s a slow period for them, and they expressed eagerness to help people in their community get the tools they needed vote. And they accepted that our purpose was not to pressure them, but to pressure the Secretary of State’s office and the legislative promise that these free Voter cards would be available, as was promised.
Dougherty County is one of the poorer, more rural counties that has both a higher percentage of voters who don’t have a driver’s license number on file and has a more limited tax base so that the Registrar’s office isn’t likely to be able to provide something extra (like the promised picture ID mandate) for it’s residents. They are depending on the Georgia Secretary of State’s office (and/or state legislature) to provide funding. Republicans have used the offer of a free Voter Identification Card (and acceptance of expired driver’s licenses) as the main reason their new ID requirements aren’t onerous. But the fact is that people who don’t have identification with a photo on it aren’t generally aware of these requirements (something I learned from a Georgia voter in the Senate special election).
This is why we are canvassing.
Hope Springs from Field PAC is knocking on doors in a grassroots-led effort to increase awareness of the fact that Democrats care about our voters and are working to protect their rights. We are thinking about how to mitigate Voter Suppression efforts, get around them and make sure we have “super compliance,” both informing and helping our voters meet the requirements and get out and vote. We are taking those efforts to the doors of the communities most effected (the intended targets or victims) of these new voter suppression laws.
Obviously, we rely on grassroots support, so if you support field/grassroots organizing and our efforts to protect our voters, we would certainly appreciate your support:
Hope Springs from Field PAC was started by former Obama Field Organizers because field was the cornerstone of our success. The approach we adopted was focused on listening, on connecting voters and their story to the candidate and our cause. Repeated face to face interactions are critical. And we are among those who believe that Democrats didn’t do as well in the 2020 Congressional races as expected because we didn’t knock on doors. We are returning to the old school basics: repeated contacts, repeated efforts to remind them of protocols, meeting them were they are. Mentoring those who need it (like first time and newly registered voters). Reminding, reminding, reminding, and then chasing down those voters whose ballots need to be cured.
On Thursday, 214 Dougherty County Voters came out to request the free Voter ID card. How do we know that? Because the Registrar’s Office did a count in order to pass that along to the Georgia Secretary of State. They had enough stock to make 24. We had 38 voters (first) in line who did not have the necessary picture ID, more than the stock the Registrar’s office had to make them. We had a feeling, before we even knocked on our first door this summer that the state would not provide enough stock for every voter in Dougherty who needed one of these free cards to get one. When a registrar’s employee called the Secretary of State’s office to inform them that they had run out of stock, they were told to “send them to the Driver’s Services office. Which was precisely the point. Who would knowingly want to wait in *that* line? But we had proved that the Georgia legislature was trying to suppress poor African-Americans, doing everything they can to keep them from voting. We had the proof.
We filled out an Incident Report for every voter who didn’t have the proper picture ID to vote in Georgia, and made a list of all the other people who going our quest on Thursday to provide to the lawyers for the several cases taking Georgia to court to contest the new law. We will also be providing copies of those to the U.S. Dep’t of Justice Civil Rights Division this week. I’ll be walking those over myself. This is the very first piece of proof that Georgia Republicans are intent on suppressing the vote, keeping African-American voters from being able to vote. Yeah, yeah, we all knew that. But now we have real, documented evidence that it is so.
And we won’t stop. We have scheduled 14 more attempts to obtain these free Voter ID cards in the future in 5 Black Belt counties.
I want to reiterate that this action is a result of the thinking about the consequences of the new Georgia elections law by students at the Historically Black College and University Albany State. They thought of this test and put the troops on the ground in these counties. Dougherty was the most convenient place for the first test because it is were Albany State is located. Our canvassing in Georgia is an outgrowth of these volunteers, who seem extraordinarily committed to keeping Rev Warnock in the U.S. Senate. And these (mostly female) African-American women were just amazing at getting people to knock on doors in their Black Belt counties. But they keep asking, can we do more? Those who will be returning to Albany State in the fall are expecting to do more!
We can all do more. Of course, the easiest thing that any of us can do is to contribute. We realize not everyone can, just as not everyone has the patience, knowledge and skillset to walk people through the process of obtaining a photo id. But if you support our grassroots efforts to protect the vote, especially in minority communities, I hope you do.
Our main expenses (right now) are typical canvassing materials (water, snacks, walk packets, lit and access to VAN) as well as the mobile printers we are purchasing to comply with the voter ID requirements in other states. At this time, all the money we raise is devoted to this. But we are currently relying upon the Obama alumni network for organizers and cutting turf. We want to bring in other field organizers as we are able, especially since many of the people who are cutting turf now will want to devote more of their volunteer time to the candidates and causes they support.
If you are able to support our efforts to protect Democratic voters, especially in minority communities, expand the electorate, and believe in grassroots efforts to increase voter participation and election protection, please donate:
Thank you for your support!
Poll2081 votes Show Results
What Do You Think Our Chances are of Overturning the New GA Election Law?2081 votes Vote Now!
What Do You Think Our Chances are of Overturning the New GA Election Law?Good9%197 votesExpect to See Some Aspects Overturned466 votesI can’t Tell349 votesIt’s Going All the Way to the SCOTUS604 votesNot Good465 votes
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.