Atlanta attorney CK Hoffler serves as counsel to civil rights icon Reverend Jesse Jackson and is Chairwoman of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s board. She’s the former President of the National Bar Association and has been at the forefront of the fight for voting rights in Georgia and beyond. In this week’s Election Crimes Bulletin (first broadcast on October 17), Hoffler talks about the challenges Georgia voters face at the polls in November. Having seen a preview of Palast’s new film, Vigilante: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman, Hoffler also discusses the vigilante voter challenges unleashed on Georgians by Governor Brian Kemp and his SB202 anti-voting law, which the documentary exposed.
“I think the way that you juxtaposed the actual people who were victims with the people who were the perpetrators of this voter suppression was nothing short of brilliant,” says Hoffler to Palast. “And then, of course, to expose and to have the country understand the history of Brian Kemp and his family, being the family who brought slavery to the state of Georgia… it was also something that was masterfully done. I think everyone needs to see this movie. It’s not just about Georgia, but it’s relevant to what’s happening in this country today.”
Dennis Bernstein: In one moment, we’re gonna welcome Greg Palast back. But he has helped us make a connection with a very special guest that we are delighted to introduce. Joining us is CK Hoffler. She is the chair of the National Board of Rainbow Push Coalition. She’s a longtime attorney. She’s been in the battle to save people’s vote in Atlanta, Georgia. Wow, CK Hoffler, welcome to Flashpoints… You’ve got a lifetime of skills, apparently all sharpened for this moment. What’s it look like on the ground now? You think people are gonna be able to vote fairly in Georgia, in Atlanta? What’s it looking like?
CK Hoffler: Well, I don’t think it’s going to be easy for people to vote fairly in Georgia. First of all, thank you for having me on the show. And the reason why I said that is because voter suppression is alive and well in Georgia. You know, Greg Palast, who is phenomenal — you all know he’s phenomenal — and Vigilante really underscores, in graphic detail, exactly how voter suppression is manifesting itself in Georgia. And quite frankly, it’s not just Georgia, it’s throughout the country, but it is so specific to the voting history in Georgia and the movie brings it to modern day voter suppression.
So, to answer your question, succinctly, no. I think it’s gonna be very, very difficult for some people to vote, and for us to have free and fair elections in Georgia because of the voter suppression. But, by the same token, there are many, many civil rights grassroots organizations in the field, on the ground in Georgia that are making sure that people are registered to vote. Because the key to the election, with these very contentious elections in Georgia, the key is really to register voters. Because we are in a voter suppression state, without a question. We have very strong legislation, you all have heard this, that precludes people from even giving someone standing in line water or something to eat. So, if someone has a medical condition where water would make a difference, or if they needed a little snack, it could be that people who would try to tender just to the basic humanity could be arrested in Georgia.
We are confronting voter suppression on all levels, from the closing of voting stations to minimizing, significantly, absentee ballots. You name it, the classic voter suppression is now alive and well in Georgia. And also people challenging people’s ballots. I mean, that is the most, I think, devastating aspect of what’s happening in Georgia. And Vigilante, again, underscores this. So, if you just imagine yourself in a situation where you haven’t moved, there’s no reason why your vote should be challenged, you are properly registered to vote, and someone just challenges your vote — challenges your ballot without even you knowing the person or without them even investigating it — that’s what can happen in Georgia and that’s what is happening.
Bernstein: I know that you understand, in the context of the history of the battle for the vote, particularly in the South, blood has been spilled. How do you see this historically? We thought we were past this thing about people actually having the basic right to vote. Are you surprised? Where do you think the hope lies? We got a big battle ahead of us to fight for the vote.
Hoffler: We really do. You know, I could say I really wasn’t surprised. Because ever since the 2013 US Supreme Court opinion, Shelby County v. Holder, ever since that crushing opinion was inked, voting rights in states like Georgia, and actually throughout the country, have been curtailed, have been limited, have been cut, have been challenged, have been an issue. Because all of the federal protections that existed — especially as related to ensuring that there be minimal or no discrimination at the polls — were stripped, that was Shelby County v. Holder. The late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg inked, I would say, just an incredibly strong dissenting opinion in that case, and basically outlined what we could expect to happen with voter suppression. So, since 2013, the states have been in control of administering the elections and did not have to report or do any of the things that they had had to do with pre-clearances previously under federal law, before Shelby County v. Holder. What we are seeing right now in terms of voting stations being closed and the various acts of voter suppression are the direct result of that opinion. So, I’m not surprised. But what is surprising is the tenacity of those who are just determined to strip away people’s right to vote, when we know in this country, historically, people died so that we, so that I might have the right to vote.
Bernstein: About 20 years ago I was traveling around the South investigating dozens of black church burnings. You may remember, there were over a hundred, and I remember I got to Alabama and that’s when I got my first lesson about the nature of voter suppression in the South, when Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, I learned, had made a career of stopping black people from voting. While we were investigating the black church burnings and the Klan and all that, he was investigating why these black people kept burning their own churches and accusing other people of stopping them from voting. You ever heard stories like this?
Hoffler: I have, I have. I mean, when you live in the South… I’m originally from up north, but I’ve lived in Georgia for a decade, and I lived in Florida prior to Georgia. And when you live in some of these states, which are very, very, acutely aware of the fact that when people have the right to vote, that could change the demographic or the political posture of certain counties, of certain places, when they have the right to vote, and it could change who is elected, there is increased voter suppression. Because if you don’t allow people to vote their conscience and to vote for who they feel puts forth their best interest, then you won’t have the opportunity for us to see the outcome when there are free and fair elections. But, if you do allow people to vote, then we see different outcomes. And in the last presidential elections, people were allowed to vote in Georgia, and in many states, because of COVID. There were different measures that were put in place because of COVID to enable people to vote. Well, those things have been reversed. So, we’re expecting that voter suppression is gonna be at an all time high. So, none of this surprises me.
In Alabama, Texas, Wisconsin, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, all of these states, they’re at least 20 states in this union, maybe 22, that have very significant voter suppression laws. So, we’re just turning back the clock. And I’m reminded of people who died — who died — who were killed so that we might have the right to vote. It’s very, very distressing. But to counter that, we are seeing groups mobilizing very aggressively in communities to ensure that people have the right to vote.
You have to realize that in places like Georgia, there are communities in Georgia and rural parts of Georgia where they don’t have access to the internet. So, when you have people that have been illegally stripped from the voting rolls — and Greg Palast did a phenomenal job at documenting this — and there was clear evidence of this, and we had voting litigation surrounding that, when you have that, as was the case in Georgia, where we believe prior to the Senate runoff race, where Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock were running, close to 200,000 Georgians were illegally stricken from the rolls, when you have situations like that occurring, it’s imperative that people check their voting status. They have to go to vote.org or just check their status. But if you don’t have access to the internet — forget about high speed internet, just the internet — as is the case in rural Georgia, then you can’t check that status. That’s why organizations such as Rainbow Push Coalition, Transformative Justice Coalition, The People’s Agenda, Black Voters Matter Fund and others in Georgia are critical. They play a very, very important role because they help people to register to vote. They go in those communities, they knock on the doors, they ensure that people have the option and give them the ability to check their voting status and to register to vote — that’s really important.
And it’s not just Georgia. In all of these communities in all these states in the South, you see rural communities where people don’t have access to the internet — basic things. That’s why, during COVID when we had children learning virtually, well, you have to have a computer to learn virtually. You have to have access, not just to the internet, but to high speed internet to learn virtually. So, that’s a real problem in terms of education and voter education in some of these Southern states where there’s very poor or limited access to high speed internet that would enable people to vote, and to vote their causes and to vote what they feel is best.
Bernstein: Beautiful. Well said… There’s a guy here on the other line. I know he is banging down the wall to get in. I think he might have some questions for you. His name is Greg Palast. He is the filmmaker of Vigilante: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman. Consider this a friendly ambush. I know Greg has some questions for you as well. Greg, join us.
Greg Palast: It’s got to be friendly because CK has acted as the attorney of record for the Palast Investigative Fund. But, more important, we went into federal court… And just so you know, she’s not just an attorney, she is Reverend Jesse Jackson’s personal attorney, if I remember correctly, and head of Rainbow Push as the chairwoman… She’s the former President of the National Bar Association [2020-2021] and she’s been at the forefront of this fight. We went into federal court. She mentioned 198,000 Georgians wrongly removed, which, as you know from the Election Crimes Bulletin, we uncovered this, we had the experts. This is all in the film, Vigilante: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman…. CK has seen the film… I appreciate the fact, CK, that according to Sanita Jackson, you were tweeting or texting her in the middle of film saying, ‘You gotta see this girl. It’s powerful./
Hoffler: I was, I was glad to.
Palast: Okay, so she didn’t make that one up.
Hoffler: No, she didn’t make it up… I couldn’t believe it. First of all, you know, Greg, you are phenomenal. I don’t know if people completely appreciate your brilliance and what you have done in uncovering this voter suppression, especially in Georgia. But it’s not just limited to Georgia. You could pick any state in the union and you would see a replica of this type of voter suppression. It’s just the evidence is baffling in Georgia… I think what was so unique about your movie, about this movie Vigilante, was that you had actual people who had been victims, and who are victims today, as we speak, of voter suppression, people who had been stricken from those rolls, or whose ballot had been challenged by people who knew nothing about them. Didn’t know anything about them, they just got a list, a random list, of course put in front of them by nefarious groups or groups that are designed to win the Senate seat in Georgia by any means necessary.
And then there’re people that were just challenging the ballots. And when these people were confronted by the people whose ballots they were challenging, the voters they were challenging. They basically had nothing to say. They were just making up stuff as they went along. And I think the way that you juxtaposed the actual people who were victims with the people who were the perpetrators of this voter suppression was nothing short of brilliant. And then, of course, to expose and to have the country understand the history of Brian Kemp and his family, being the family who brought slavery to the state of Georgia… it was also something that was masterfully done. I think everyone needs to see this movie. It’s not just about Georgia, but it’s relevant to what’s happening in this country today.
Bernstein: Say that again now, say that again.
Hoffler: Everyone needs to see this movie.
Bernstein: The guy who’s running against Stacey Abrams, what’s his connection?
Hoffler: His family, and Greg, you can say it, but his family was the family that brought slavery to Georgia, to the state of Georgia — his family. Now, you know, you can’t rewrite history. You can change your last name, but you can’t rewrite history. And what this movie does, what Vigilante does, is it traces his family. These are just things that are facts… I don’t believe they’re in dispute. So, I think that this movie is very rich with historical significance. It’s rich with the present day voter suppression. It’s rich with concrete examples of how voter suppression actually manifests itself in this country, using Georgia as an example. But, please mark my words, it is not unique to Georgia, this is happening throughout this nation. That’s why everybody needs to see it.
Palast: Thank you, CK. And, by the way, it is a movie. It’s not just good-for-you information. It’s not a textbook, it is a movie.
Hoffler: And very entertaining too.
Palast: I was just watching it today with George DiCaprio, who is an executive producer, and it’s weirdly harsh, but it’s entertaining, and there’s a lot of humor.
But, one of the things that you brought up CK is that, yes, it’s Georgia, but whatever is tested out by the GOP in Georgia [is rolled out in other states]… And by the way, I’m not being partisan by saying that all 88 vigilante vote challengers, with a quarter million challenges to voters, all 88 are Republican officials. And, overwhelmingly, the people that they are attacking, and that you meet in the film, are African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and young people… Basically they’re going after voters of color, the color being blue. It’s not partisan, this is just factual. At the beginning of the film, it’s introduced by Martin Sheen and he explains it’s coming, just like the film, he says it’s coming to a state near you, as Bloomberg has reported. Bloomberg just reported that the Georgia Vigilante Voter Challenge system has now moved to nine other states: Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, and, of course, Arizona. And you might recognize that those are the states that are gonna swing the US Senate.
They take this method that they used in Georgia, and that CK Hoffler and Rainbow Push have been fighting, and they’re taking it on the road… Remember that Biden won Wisconsin by officially by just 10,000 votes. The people that are funding the challenge in Georgia are Wisconsin billionaires, which we show in the film… the Bradley family, and they are using it in Wisconsin, where Biden just won by 10,000 votes. Mandela Barnes, the Lieutenant Governor, of course he’s African American, and his constituents are facing these purges and attacks. Everything you see in Georgia is happening in Milwaukee, which is, by the way, why Milwaukee State Senator Lena Taylor is having a showing of the film in Milwaukee on Saturday because she says it says Atlanta, but it sure looks like Milwaukee when we are looking at what they’re doing.
Bernstein: All right, listen everybody, we’re just about out of time. What an honor to have you with us CK Hoffler, and the incredible work you do as Chair of the National Board of the Rainbow Push Coalition, working with my hero Jesse Jackson, being his attorney. It’s an honor to have you with us. We hope you win this battle with the help of Greg Palast against voter suppression. And I hope you’ll come back and keep us posted on the frontline battle for the vote in Georgia.
Hoffler: Absolutely, Absolutely. I’d love to come back. And I cannot express to your listeners how important it is to see Vigilante. I cannot express how important it is, because it will open your eyes to things that we just don’t want to see. It’s gonna make you feel uncomfortable, but it’s also very entertaining. I mean, there are topics in there, and situations, that will move you, but also Greg has a unique way of putting together a movie that also has humor. And sometimes you laugh to keep from crying, let’s just say it, but it’s a great movie. It’s entertaining, it’s filled with historical significance, and legal significance, and relevance to today’s environment. So, I hope that everybody will see it and also vote.
You know, having the right to vote is not partisan issue. Everyone should have the right to vote. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, just let people vote. What’s the big deal? When you see voter suppression, it makes you feel some kinda way, because if you let people just vote, that is the American way, that is democracy, that’s what it is to be, I believe, in this country. Anything short of that is voter suppression, and designed to take us back to one of the dark eras in our country that we do not want to revisit, and that’s where we’re headed if we’re not very careful.
Bernstein: Thank you so much for joining us on Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. Stay safe. We’ll talk to you soon.
Writer, editor, photographer, videographer, social media consultant, and tactivist (tactical activist), Nicole Powers uses art and technology to share ideas that make the world a better place.