In the age of Trump, Macon-Bibb African-Americans cannot afford to give up on democracy in local elections

On Friday, June 19th, the Macon-Bibb Board of Elections supervisor Jeanetta Watson stood outside her office for an interview with WMAZ-TV Channel 13 reporter Zach Merchant and said with a smiling face that this was a historic election– ten days after finally certifying ballots from the June 9th primary. Even though the June 9th primary here in Georgia was unprecedented due to the Coronavirus and there was a much higher number of mail-in absentee ballots when Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger allowed absentee ballot applications to be sent to all of Georgia’s registered voters.

Long lines and malfunctioning voting machines disrupted statewide primary elections in Georgia, renewing attention that voter suppression is still an ongoing issue –even in majority-minority Bibb County. Approximately, 18,000 mail-in ballots were cast for the June 9th primary, but why did it take ten days to put out an official count and certified by the Secretary of State?

With an upcoming August runoff and November election, will the Bibb Board of Elections be among the last in the state to certify their ballots–again? Georgia is a battleground state which could decide the presidency along with two U.S. Senate seats. Remember the 2000 election in regard to Florida and that went to the Supreme Court which made George Bush the winner of the presidency.

Stacey Abrams, who came very close to becoming the state’s first African-American and female governor in November 2018 said the following to the New York Times about the June 9th primary:

“It is a disaster that was preventable,” Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who narrowly lost the disputed 2018 governor’s race, said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “It is emblematic of the deep systemic issues we have here in Georgia. One of the reasons we are so insistent upon better operations is that you can have good laws, but if you have incompetent management and malfeasance, voters get hurt, and that’s what we see happening in Georgia today.”

The Atlanta Journal and Constitution reported back on May 18th that election officials can begin opening absentee ballots eight days before Georgia’s June 9 primary, according to a State Election Board rule approved to deal with a deluge of mailed-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic.

The board voted unanimously to pass the emergency rule, which will help election officials handle record numbers of absentee ballots. In previous elections, absentee ballots couldn’t be processed until election day.

Overall, in Bibb County, a little over 39,000 voters cast a ballot with Lester Miller receiving 42 percent of the vote and Cliffard Whitby receiving 27 percent. On August 11, a runoff will happen to decide who will become Macon-Bibb’s next mayor.

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