Georgians Rally for “Quitman Ten Plus Two”
(APN) QUITMAN — On Saturday, February 25, 2012, over five hundred Georgia citizens marched in support of the Quitman Ten Plus Two. As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, the twelve have been accused of voter fraud in a local Board of Education election in Brooks County, Georgia, in 2010.
Activists are calling the Quitman case a modern-day civil rights issue involving voter intimidation and voter suppression. Black elected officials and powerful civil rights leaders from across the state and nation are demanding that Gov. Nathan Deal reinstate Board Members Dr. Nancy Dennard, Elizabeth Thomas, and Linda Troutman, whom he suspended in January 2012.
Troutman and Thomas had won the election for the Brooks County Board of Education in 2010. The day before Christmas Eve in 2010, they were arrested along with eight other people and charged with alleged voter fraud. They became known as the Quitman Ten. In 2011, two additional people were similarly charged, and the whole group became known as the Quitman Ten plus Two [not the Quitman Twelve, as previously reported by APN].
In January 2012, Gov. Deal issued an Executive Order removing all three from their positions on the Brooks County Board of Education, thus restoring the White majority on the Board. All three of these women have Masters of Education degrees and years of teaching experience.
Individuals representing many organizations were present in Quitman for the “Stop Voter Intimidation and Voter Suppression” March and Rally including the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials (GABEO), Georgia Conference of Black Mayors, Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda (GCPA), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Georgia Chapter of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Concerned Clergy of Georgia and USA, Association of Black Constructors, Black Caucus of ACCG, and National Action Network
GABEO held their annual winter conference “Living the Dream – Save the Voting Rights Act” in Quitman at the Shumate Street Church of Christ. Rev., Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Emeritus of the SCLC, and Chair of GCPA, was the keynote speaker.
“What you have done in Quitman is what we all need to do: organize, cooperate, commiserate, and win some elections. The people in Quitman won an election and the people who lost got mad and then they won it again. Keep on organizing, keep on voting, keep on pulling together, keep on trusting each other, and we’re going to win this struggle,” Rev. Lowery said to the packed church.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” State Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) said, quoting Martin Luther King.
Jones said the legislative black caucus had a meeting with the Governor where they asked, “Governor, we know you empowered a panel to look into what is happening in Quitman and you acted on their recommendations. One of the members, who sits on that panel, told us that they were only asked to look at what was available in the public domain, and we know you fixed the argument in Quitman, Georgia,” Sen. Jones said.
“It is clear to this caucus that the Governor does not know his way out of this mess, but we are here to tell him how to get out. Governor, all we want you to do is reinstate those you removed from the school board and get the hell out of Quitman, Georgia,” Sen. Jones said.
On February 9, 2012, State Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta) and Sen. Jones sent a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder to request an investigation into the allegations of election fraud and the resulting indictment of twelve Black residents of Brooks County.
The letter also asks the Attorney General to submit a letter requesting that the suspension of the three Black members of the Board of Education be submitted for pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act before it can be implemented.
After a mile march for justice to end voter intimidation and voter suppression from the church to the court house in Quitman, other civil rights leaders spoke.
“Tallahassee and Madison County in Florida are dealing with the same problem,” Edward Dubose, President of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, said.
Indeed, in Madison County, Florida, nine people were arrested and charged with voter fraud in connection with a local school board election in 2010.
The arrests happened a few months after a new law was passed in Florida that made it illegal for absentee ballots to be sent anywhere other than a voter’s registered address.
One member of the Madison Nine, Judy Ann Crumitie, is suing the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for pulling a gun on her during its investigation into voter fraud in Madison County.
Also Florida’s House Bill 1355, which restricts third-party voter registration, has resulted in several Florida teachers facing fines upwards of one thousand dollars for registering their students to vote.
The NAACP views these actions as fostering an atmosphere that promotes voter suppression leading into the 2012 election.
Nineteen new laws and two executive orders in fourteen states will make it harder to vote, according to a new study by the Brennan Center for Justice.
These new voter restrictions will disproportionately impact young, minority and low-income voters. It is estimated more than five million eligible voters will find it more difficult to vote and this could change the outcome of the of the 2012 election.
By passing a lot of laws aimed at disenfranchising Black voters in so many states, it appears as if the Republican Party hopes to win by intimidation and suppressing voter participation in 2012.
Some strategies have included tougher voter ID laws, creating obstacles to getting ID, intimidating voter registration groups, eliminating same-day registration, eliminating early voting, ban felons from voting, cutting election administration budgets, improperly purging registered voters, arresting Black people who win elections, and arresting Black people who register people to vote.
So far at least, thirty-four US states introduced legislation that would require voters to show photo identification in order to vote, a trend that began in Georgia in 2005.
Twelve states have introduced legislation that would require proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, to register or vote
Thirteen states introduced bills to end same-day voter registration, limit voter registration mobilization efforts, and reduce other registration opportunities.
Nine states introduced bills to reduce their early voting periods, and four tried to reduce absentee voting opportunities.
Florida and Iowa has made it difficult for people with past felony convictions to restore their voting right. This will affect hundreds of thousands of voters.
“It’s all about power, everything you have heard about voter suppression, voter ID, and redistricting. They want to take your power because once you exercise [your vote] as the Quitman Ten Plus Two have done, it means you have taken back your power. It’s about controlling that money, because all the school boards have control over a lot of money. They don’t want us to have control of that money, whether you are a city mayor, county commissioner, local school board member, or a state representative. It’s all about money and power,” Helen Butler, Executive Director, GCPA, said.