About 40 Black senior citizens were ordered to get off a bus taking them to vote in Jefferson County, Georgia. When county Administrator Adam Brett heard about the bus ride, he stopped the trip.
The county operates the senior center in Louisville and officials considered Monday’s event a “political activity” that’s not allowed during county-sponsored events, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
It was the first day of in-person early voting in Georgia. The group Black Voters Matter, which ran the bus, was preparing to leave from the senior center when the director asked the residents to get off.
“Public transit brings them (to the senior center, so) we feel somewhat responsible for their safety while they’re there,” Brett, the county administrator, told 11Alive on Wednesday. “We didn’t know this group. This group was not vetted. We felt a liability on our end to just open to a group we didn’t know about.”
Brett said “he was also suspicious that one of the Jefferson’s County’s leading Democrats was on the bus with them,” according to the news channel.
But he added, “It would be no different had the Republican Party president wanted to host an event. We would not have allowed that either.”
LaTosha Brown, a co-founder of Black Voters Matter, said it was unnecessary.
“We knew it was an intimidation tactic,” Brown told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. “It was really unnecessary. These are grown people.”
The director of the senior center, Tammie Bennett, said all of the voters who have asked to be taken to vote early have done so since they were told to get off the bus on Monday.
Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp are in a tight gubernatorial race. Kemp also happens to be the secretary of state, and Abrams is calling for him to resign for abusing his power to prevent Blacks from voting.
Kemp is accused of putting more than 53,000 voter registration applications on hold to boost his campaign. According to an Associated Press report, the voter registrations are predominantly from Black people.
According to recent Census figures, Jefferson County is 53 percent Black, and voting rights advocates cite a lack of transportation as a particularly high barrier to voting for Black Georgians.
Civil rights groups most recently raised this point in August when a majority-Black Georgia county proposed closing all but two of its polling places.
The Washington Informer web staff contributed to this report.