Someone didn't like the vision of Black elderly voters dancing with joy in anticipation of boarding a bus to vote in Louisville, Georgia. Someone didn't think Black people who had suffered through segregation and Jim Crow in the Deep South should publicly declare their votes mattered. Someone decided to try to scare some senior citizens in their nineties (NINETIES) from daring to be free and open in their equality as voters.
So, someone from the Leisure Senior Center told LaTosha Brown, founder of Black Voters Matter, that the roughly 40 seniors would need to get off the bus that was about to take them to the polls. Black Voters Matter, if you haven't guessed, is a grassroots outreach program whose goal is to help Black people "expand voter engagement." Can't have that in 2018, now can we?
Apparently someone from the Senior Center said they'd received a call about a complaint either to or from (these details are fuzzy) the County Commissioner's office about the Black Voters Matter bus, and whether or not it should be allowed to transport the seniors to the polling place. Now, keep in mind, there is no law against any bus, from transporting people to the polls in Georgia. But not wanting to make trouble in the small town, they complied.
So, the bus they'd organized, for which they'd gotten permission ahead of time to bring, already boarded with senior citizens, was unloaded. Even worse, the Senior Center had their own bus they'd arranged to transport the seniors to the polls, but they cancelled that bus in the midst of everything, too. So there was no voting for these senior citizens yesterday. LaTosha Brown describes the details of the events to Roland Martin in the video below, starting around 8 minutes in.
When I first saw this, I wanted to find out if there was any regulation against the bus, and called the Board of Elections in Jefferson County, Georgia. I was reassured by the Superintendent, Susan Gray that not only was that non-political, non-partisan bus perfectly acceptable, but even a political bus with candidate information was allowed to drop voters off at the polls. The only requirement for vehicles with political signage on them was that they had to park 150 feet away from the polling place.
Then I called Leisure Senior Center to ask about who had given them that misinformation about the Black Voters Matter bus, and was asked first to call back. When I called back as instructed, I was asked to call the County Clerk, which I did. The County Clerk, Bonnie Wells (cited in the Think Progress piece linked above) said they would have a statement today, but assured me she had no knowledge about complaints regarding the bus, and that it was indeed perfectly legal for it to transport the seniors to the polls.
After calling the County Clerk's office twice today, I received the following statement for release:
October 15, 2018
For Immediate Release:
Jefferson County operates a Senior Center that provides meals and entertainment to senior citizens in Jefferson County three days per week. The Jefferson County Board of Commissioners has a long standing practice of not allowing political activities during normal business hours or at County sponsored activities. These senior citizens are under the complete care and supervision of Jefferson County while they are at the Senior Center. Jefferson County Administration felt uncomfortable with allowing Senior Center patrons to leave the facility in a bus with an unknown third party. Additionally, the event in question that took place at the Jefferson County Senior Center was led by the President of the Jefferson County Democratic Party and as such was considered a political event. No seniors at the Jefferson County Senior Center were denied their right to vote. In fact, Senior Center staff routinely arrange Jefferson County Public Transit to transport senior citizens to vote. Jefferson County invites and encourages all registered voters to vote from October 15-November 2 from 8 AM to 5 PM, October 27 from 9 AM to 4 PM and on election day November 6 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Hm. Somehow I doubt this will be the end of the story. Will update as needed if more information becomes available.