Today, Black Voters Matter (BVM) responds to complaints of illegal campaigning during a press conference following the Georgia State Elections Board Hearing. In this case, the Secretary of State’s Office first found that BVM and its partners were in violation of [O.C.G.A. 21-2-414(a)(1)(3)] for illegal campaigning, but on February 1, 2023, the Georgia Secretary of State reversed its preliminary finding and concluded that BVM and its partners did not violate this law. On Tuesday, February 7, 2023, the State Board of Elections followed the recommendation of the Secretary of State and found no violation.
“We believe that the Secretary of State and the State Board of Elections made the right decision in this case; however, we will continue to challenge these unjust laws in court, which seek to stretch the long recognized meaning of electioneering to include humanitarian efforts to pass out food, water and support to voters standing in long lines,” said April Albright, National Legal Director.
This case is one of the first attempts by the state of Georgia to prosecute individuals for violations under SB202, but it will not be its last. BVM is working with local partners, Rep Georgia, Protect the Vote, Southern Poverty Law Center,Common Cause Georgia, and Social Change to protect the vote.
This act by the State Board of Elections is a direct threat to voting rights in the state of Georgia and specifically in Dougherty County, a predominantly Black county that was severely impacted by the decision to reduce the number of early/advance voting sites to a single location during the 2020 presidential election.
In 2020, a Black Voters Matter employee and three organizers partnering with BVM were cited for illegal campaigning in Albany, GA during early/advance voting for distributing water and snacks to voters waiting in six hour lines to vote. Although these events happened prior to the passage of SB202, the four individuals, known as the Food and Water Four, were charged with soliciting votes by the mere act of giving out food and water.
“This prosecution, although dropped, is yet another example of voter intimidation and efforts to criminalize passing out food and water to voters waiting in line. Because of the long lines that voters were forced to wait in in order to cast a ballot there were multiple accounts of individuals passing out because of the heat,” said Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter.”
Black Voters Matter is committed to protecting the voting rights of Black and brown communities, not just in Georgia, but all across the nation and will continue to push back against the constant threat to democracy. The organization is mobilizing state and national partners to take action and be aware of this new attempt to suppress the Black vote.
Watch the press conference HERE.