A federal court in Georgia ruled on Tuesday that the challenge to 360,000 Georgians’ right to vote, suspiciously targeting Black voters, does not violate the federal Voting Rights Act. Judge Steve C. Jones slapped aside the suit brought by Stacy Abrams’ Fair Fight against Texas group True the Vote, which had created the hit list of voters.
Biden, who only won Georgia by 11,000 votes in 2020, may have to kiss the state goodbye in November. And because the ruling came down from a federal court, True the Vote has a green light to expand its mass challenge of voters to other states including, according to the triumphant group itself, Arizona, Texas and several other swing states.
One disastrous decision by the court helped sink Fair Fight’s case. Fair Fight needed to show that the 80 vigilante challengers relied on True the Votes’ target list. The incriminating evidence was caught on camera and included in our film Vigilante: Georgia’s Vote Suppression Hitman. Republican Party official Pam Reardon personally challenged a breathtaking 32,379 voters. Reardon told me, cameras rolling, that she didn’t bother to check any of the info on these voters because she simply took the list from True the Vote.
GOP official Reardon said, “I can’t go through 32,000 people. I was handed the list by True the Vote [who] vetted it.”
Case closed…except the judge would not let Fair Fight put our film into evidence.
A key witness was career military man Gamaliel Turner, 70, whose father founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King. Turner was working on a contract with the Pentagon, assigned to Fort Hueneme in California, requiring him to move temporarily from his home near his base at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was challenged by Republican County chairman Alton Russell as not an eligible citizen.
Army Major Turner (now retired) was told, when he didn’t receive his absentee ballot, that he had to fly to Georgia to prove his American citizenship. In Vigilante, he relates his call to his elections board after the Russell challenge,
“So you’re telling me, 2600 miles away, two days or three days before the election, if I want to vote, all I have to do is show up and prove, as an American citizen, that I have the right to vote!”
The Major was allowed to testify in the Fair Fight case but our film — film that showed Alton Russell’s confession to the reckless, threatening challenge — could not be admitted. (Federal court rules of evidence are a minefield that can make no sense to mortals. That’s why they call it “law” school and not “justice” school.)
Fair Fight had sued True the Vote for violating Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act which bans “intimidation” of voters. Case law defines, “intimidation” as any act which is “intended to deter individuals from exercising their right to vote,” from outright violence to acts “that inspire fear of economic harm.”
The court ruled that what Major Turner went through did not constitute “intimidation,” but rather “inconvenience.” Watch the film of the Major confronting his accuser Russell — who literally dresses up as the vigilante Doc Holliday as a performer — and tell me the Major did not feel intimidated, that he did not fear economic and emotional harm:
The Major won’t Surrender
I just spoke with Major Turner. He does not understand how True the Vote’s actions, including announcing that Seal Team members were recruited to appear at polling stations to enforce their challenges, could be seen as anything but intimidation.
The court also ruled that little harm was done because 99% of True the Vote vigilante challenges were reversed by threatened voters and county elections boards. That ignores the year-long campaign by voting rights groups that included showings of Vigilante all over the state, our website where voters could see if they were on a challenge list, even a billboard over Atlanta with our narrator, Rosario Dawson, pleading with voters to re-check their registrations. All this effort to simply protect voting rights Americans of color thought they’d won half a century ago.
The Major is not a soldier who will lay down his legal weapons. He is now working with one of Georgia’s premiere trial lawyers, Gerald Griggs, President of the NAACP of Georgia (and pro bono attorney for the Palast Investigative Fund) on other paths in federal law to stop these mass challenges which reek of racism.
I spoke with Griggs from Atlanta who said that the ruling sets, “a dangerous precedent for those who want to engage in vote suppression,” though he warned bad actors that the ruling in the Fair Fight suit will not stop the NAACP’s plans to block new vigilante challenges.
Vigilantes Inc—our next film exposé
The Palast team is not done either. We are updating our film featuring the Major and True the Vote — and, to match True the Votes’ expansion — expanding our exposé to include Arizona, Texas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida and other states. The expanded film’s new title: Vigilantes Inc.: America’s Vote Suppression Hitmen.
Major Turner is also concerned that the public is not only losing interest in the evils of vote suppression, and, worse, losing interest in voting itself. He’s frustrated that many people, not excited by their ballot choices, are suppressing their own vote by not bothering to get to the polls. Forget the candidates, he tells us, it’s not about them because democracy itself is always on the ballot. “Democracy,” says Turner, “should be the rock star.”
Please support our new project to expose True the Vote’s latest escapades and to prevent mass vote challenges with a tax-deductible donation — and get a screen credit on the new film to be released in Fall 2024.
Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits and the book and documentary,
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
His latest film is Vigilante: Georgia's Vote Suppression Hitman
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