Stacey Abrams on how suppressing Black voters has gone from 'guns' and 'hoses' to 'administrative rules'

Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Wednesday night, where she shared her grandmother's story about being able to vote for the first time, and why her grandmother didn't want to do it.

"She had watched her children be arrested and attacked during the civil rights movement," explained Abrams. She added, "Her husband had served in two wars on behalf of the United States and was never allowed to vote. She had been, you know, assailed herself and she just didn't trust that the right to vote was real. My grandfather kept urging her from the front room to come and vote, because that was during the time when people used to dress up to go and vote, and it was the first time Black people in Mississippi would have had a chance to vote in a presidential election in modern times. And she just didn't want to go."

Abrams said her grandmother told her this story because she wanted her to understand "it wasn't just the fear. Not just fear of the guns and the hoses and the dogs, it was fear of the power. For something to be denied for so long, it was hard to believe it was real.” Abrams added, “And where my grandfather was excited about it, she was just filled with trepidation and shame, that she didn't want to risk it. Just in case this time it was also a lie."

Back in June, the primary elections in Georgia were plagued by problems including broken machines, long lines, and hours-long waits in the heat, which has created more discussions regarding the threat of voter suppression this November. Fallon stated, "It's unbelievable when you hear those stories and it's, you know, here we are today and there's voter suppression still today. I mean we saw this happen in Georgia. It was insane. People were waiting outside during a pandemic. And you go, what the heck is going on. How do we stop this?" Abrams responded saying, "The first thing is that if you want to dismantle a system, you got to understand it." Ultimately, Abrams explained that, while voter suppression was different during her grandmother's time, it's still very prevalent today.

"The age of, you know, guns and dogs and hoses being the barrier to voting is gone. Today it's labyrinthine administrative rules," stated Abrams.

Abrams concluded, "It's designed to look like a user error. It's designed to look, like, just bureaucracy, and it's designed to make you doubt that you didn't make the mistake. That's what is so insidious about it. We no longer treat voter suppression as the responsibility of those who are in charge of elections, we blame each other instead of blaming the system and blaming the people responsible for making the system so hard."

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. on NBC.

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