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Black Leaders Mobilize to Help the Quitman Ten
(APN) ATLANTA -- Black leaders and elected officials held a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol on Monday, January 23, 2012, to discuss their concern regarding the Quitman Ten, a group of Black elected officials and voters from Quitman, Georgia, who are facing questionable indictments for voter fraud.
Quitman, Brooks County, Georgia is a small town of approximate 5,000 people a few miles north of the Georgia/Florida border. Brooks County is forty percent Black, but the largest voting precinct is Quitman, a town that is approximately 67 percent Black.
Brooks County held a Primary election on July 20, 2010, for positions on the Board of Education. Linda Troutman, who is Black, defeated the White incumbent, Mayra Exum; and Elizabeth Thomas, who is Black, also defeated the White incumbent, Gary Rentz.
In the General Election on November 02, 2010, the two defeated incumbents switched places on the ballot and presented themselves again as write-in candidates. This time Troutman defeated write-in candidate Rentz and Thomas defeated write-in candidate Exum.
Georgia election law states that candidates who run for a particular office in the Primary and lose are not eligible to be qualified as write-in candidates for the same seat in the General Election. However, Judge Richard Porter of Cairo, Georgia, ruled the write-in candidates were in substantial compliance with the law.
Four days before Christmas, on December 21, 2010, Troutman, Thomas, and eight others were arrested as a result of Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) investigations and were charged with alleged voter fraud.
Over five hundred people maintained a vigil outside the jail until they were released on property bonds.
In January 2011, Dr. Nancy Whitfield Dennard was elected President of the Board of Education by the first Black majority school board in Brooks County.
The Brooks County School System has approximately 2,312 students: fifty percent Black, thirty-seven percent white, and thirteen percent other.
On November 21, 2011 the original Quitman Ten plus two addional citizens were indicted.
All twelve people involved are facing alleged multiple felony counts of Unlawful Possession of Ballots and Interfering With an Elector.
The people charged are: Angela Bryant, Sandra Cody, Debra Denard, Dr. Nancy Dennard, Robert Denard, Kechia Harrison, Latashia Head, Brenda Monds, April Proctor, Lula Smart, Elizabeth Thomas, and Linda Troutman.
"We met and decided that we wanted better representation, we campaigned, and we were successful. We have done nothing wrong but excite people that they can vote, educated people on ways to vote and on alternatives. We did not devise this plan, it's in our Constitution. They have a God given right to vote their choice and that's what they did," Dr. Dennard said.
District Attorney J. David Miller of the Southern Judicial Circuit, a Republican, authorized the involvement of the GBI. The investigation was instigated because of an unusually high number of absentee ballots cast in the July 2010 Primary Election.
Incumbents Rentz and Exum were leading until the absentee ballots (979) were counted, which gave Troutman and Thomas the lead.
On the Quitman Ten's power point presentation, they show how they won. It was by old-fashioned feet on the ground campaigning. They updated voter registrations; held voter registration drives; assisted voters in acquiring acceptable voter identification in Georgia; went door to door campaigning; and provided weekly campaign updates to social, community, and religious gatherings.
They saturated districts with campaign literature; generated voter lists for phone campaigning; and transported voters to the polls during early voting, advance voting, and on election day.
On Tuesday, January 10, 2012, Governor Nathan Deal issued an Executive Order removing Dr. Nancy Dennard, Elizabeth Thomas, and Linda Troutman from their positions on the Brooks County Board of Education. All three of these women have Masters of Education degrees with years of teaching experience.
"As a result of the November 2010 election, for the first time, we had a majority Black school board that would govern a majority Black school system. The Governor's suspension has reversed that and now we have a majority White school board," Dr. Dennard said.
At yesterday's press conference, Black leaders called on Governor Deal to lift the suspension on the Quitman Ten and the additional two, and work with the District Attorney to drop the charges.
"Our system of justice says you are innocent until proven guilty and the Quitman Ten plus Two has not been convicted of anything. The Governor has assumed that because they are Black and accused by Whites that they are guilty and that's 1920 not 2012. Our Governor, whose name is Deal, is off on a crooked deal," Dr. Joseph Lowery of the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda said. "They couldn't kill the Voting Rights Act so they are trying to kill the results of the Voting Rights Act."
"Black leaders are talking about taking the Quitman Ten plus Two case to the US Department of Justice. We will be in touch with US Attorney General Eric Holder this week," State Rep. Tyrone Brooks promised.
"This is systematic of what is happening across America, this is the tip of the iceberg, voter suppression, voter intimation, voter ID, cutting early voting, and anything they can do to tamper down the vote leading into the 2012 election. That's what they are doing across this country," Rep. Brooks explained.
"We take the issue of voter suppression and voter intimidation very seriously. In the process of investigating the claims of voter irregularities, law enforcement went to people's homes and jobs to ask 'Are you registered to vote, who registered you and how did you get registered?' We stand with the Quitman Ten plus Two and the residents who were intimidated in their homes and places of employment. We know this is taking place all over the country," Kevin Myles, Southeast Regional Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said.
Rev. Samuel Mosteller, Georgia President of Southern Christian Leadership Conference, asked for a moment of silence for the death of our Constitution.
"It dies when we are denied our basic right to vote. Everything has been done to circumvent the Voting Rights Act since its passage in 1965... Now the Constitution is dying because we are allowing a few officials who have an ideology that says we have to be right. We don't want any Black folks to represent us and if they do, they have to parrot what we want them to say," Rev. Mosteller said.
"This is a danger signal for Black [elected] folks. Everyone's position is in danger because of what's happening to the Quitman Twelve," Rev. Mosteller said.
The corporate media so far seems ignoring the story, except national Fox News, which interviewed South Georgia Judicial Circuit District Attorney Joe Mulholland, where he said, "It’s pretty clear there was fraud here.”
As of this writting, none of the Q10 + 2 have received any information as to a court date for their trial. They have been arrested, indicted, slandered, and suspended. but have not been tried in a court of law or convicted.
The last weekend in February, people from around the country will march on the Brooks County courthouse to demand justice for the Quitman 10+2.
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