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In Portland Speech, Stacey Abrams Details Voter Suppression That Kept Her Out Of Office

Willis Ryder Arnold
Maine Public
Stacey Abrams spoke with Theodore R. Johnson from the Brennan Center for Justice Wednesday at the University of New England's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

The first black woman in U.S. history to win a major party gubernatorial nomination spoke Wednesday in Portland at the University of New England’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

Stacey Abrams, a former Democratic Georgia state legislator, lost a closely watched race in 2018 to Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who also oversaw the election. Abrams says that’s like letting New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady ref his own game.

Abrams also says that prior to Election Day, voter protection teams were put in place statewide to address concerns about voter suppression.

“Overall we had more than 80,000 people who called to tell us about voter suppression activities, and if 80,000 people called, 80,000 people didn’t know they could call, and another 80,000 people thought it was their fault and didn’t bother to talk about it,” she says.

Abrams never officially conceded the race because she says that would have affirmed that the system had worked the way it was supposed to. In her speech back in November 2018, she said that “my assessment is the law currently allows no further viable remedy.”

Abrams says voter suppression is still a major problem, and she has launched an organization called Fair Fight to protect and engage voters.

“We had communities where deputies were handing out provision ballots to black voters but not to white voters, knowing that those folks would not come back to cure those ballots,” she says. “We had four hour wait times for African Americans, the longest wait times in the nation. And in a state where you don't get time off to vote that's paid, that's the difference between whether you can take care of your family or not.”