The DeKalb County Democratic Committee and Board of Registrations and Elections (DeKalb BRE) joined the DeKalb House and Senate Delegation to denounce proposed voting bills on the steps of the Gold Dome on March 17.
“I was taught never to take our precious freedoms for granted,” Republican DeKalb BRE Vice-Chair Baoky Vu said in a statement. “The proposed so-called ‘elections integrity’ legislation … is nothing short of real voter suppression. If men and women in uniform such as Pat Tillman and Humayun Khan were willing to die fighting to defend our American democracy, then we must be willing to live fighting for it.”
The Board released a joint letter condemning proposed voting legislation, and calling on legislators to withdraw the bills. The statement is the only bipartisan rebuke of the voter restriction bills produced by a county board in Georgia.
“On March 17, the elected and community leaders of DeKalb county stood together, united in our opposition,” DeKalb House Delegation chair, Rep. Karla Drenner said. “These bills constitute an unfunded mandate on taxpayers and will put an undue burden on our local election officials.”
“Protecting and honoring this constitutional right is a responsibility that we hold dearly, and it is a bipartisan commitment,” said Board member Dele Loweman Smith, referring to county boards across the state. “On behalf of the millions of voters who lawfully engaged in their democracy in 2020, we call on state lawmakers to reject these bills, and we implore business and civic leaders to use their influence to oppose this suppressive legislation.”
John Jackson, Chair of the Dekalb County Democratic Committee, which organized the protest, said “We call on Governor Brian Kemp to be part of the bi-partisan coalition and veto anti-democracy bills HB 531 and SB 241.”
John Jackson, Chair, DeKalb County Democratic Committee – “The March 17th demonstration and press conference shows we have all hands-on deck to stop the anti-democracy bills HB531 and SB241 from becoming law. We urge Governor Brian Kemp to be a leader in the bipartisan coalition that opposes these draconian measures. We remind the governor that his very legacy depends on how he decides right or wrong in this fraught moment. The fact that he’s undecided means he knows there is something wrong.”
Rep. Karla Drenner – “Today the elected and community leaders of DeKalb county stood together, united in our opposition to these bills aimed at restricting voter access. They constitute an unfunded mandate and will cause an undue burden on our local election officials. DeKalb has more than half a million registered voters who call our county home. Based on the sheer volume of people who vote each year, we need every available avenue to make administering elections easier and more efficient, not unnecessarily restrictive and complex.”
Dele Loweman Smith, DeKalb County Board of Registrations and Elections – “My colleagues and I on the DeKalb BRE and county boards of election around the state are vested with the responsibility to ensure transparent, efficient, and accessible elections for every voter. Protecting and honoring this constitutional right is a responsibility that we hold dearly, and it is a bipartisan commitment. The election-related bills crisscrossing the General Assembly undermine voting access and hamper our ability to carry out our duties as local elections officials.
On behalf of the many thousands of voters who lawfully engaged in their democracy in 2020, we call on state lawmakers to reject these bills and on Governor Kemp to veto any that make it to his desk. Additionally, we implore business and civic leaders to use their influence to oppose this suppressive legislation.”
Baoky Vu, Vice-Chair, DeKalb County Board of Registrations and Elections – “I appreciate your invitation and regret not being able to join you in person on March 17th. Let me first begin by saying that I stand in support today NOT as an insurrection Republican, but as a pro-Democracy Republican, a proud Georgian, and an American concerned about our Republic. I am concerned because the majority of the proposed so-called “elections integrity” legislation will place undue burdens on our voters, while at the same time overwhelm many county elections departments, both from a process and a financial standpoint. It is nothing short of real voter suppression.
For me, secure elections and voting rights are neither a Democrat issue nor a Republican issue. It should not be a partisan issue, subject to the whims and vagaries when your candidate or your party loses an election. It is an American Democracy issue. Voter access and election integrity are foundational pillars for any strong and functioning democracy. That’s the singular reason why I joined three fellow members of DeKalb County’s Board of Voter Registration and Elections to urge Governor Kemp to veto the current legislative assault on our democracy.
I would also like to emphasize that I have not been the only Republican to speak up in defense of voting rights and elections integrity. I certainly am no hero. The real heroes are the elections supervisors, the poll workers, the equipment technicians, the volunteer review panels, our corporate citizens and of course, Georgia voters. Our election workers kept their heads down and performed their jobs under great duress for weeks and months this past cycle, facing even threats of bodily harm. Countless volunteers gave thousands of hours of their time, and thousands of new voters risked their health and turned out to practice their fundamental right.
In the era of instant gratification that we live in today, let us also acknowledge the timeless values of courage, character and integrity that have defined American Greatness, not the fashionable jingoistic slogans and cheap red caps. And while you all may not agree with the ideas and policies of Governor Kemp, Lieutenant Gov. Duncan, and Secretary Raffensperger, they deserve enormous credit for their courage earlier this year. It was their resolute stand against the assault on our democracy by the Big Lie that helped preserve our democratic traditions and the rule of law for another day. They, along with Gabriel Sterling and many other elected officials throughout the nation, refused to yield to the destructive and authoritarian impulses of an anti-democrat, with a small “d.” They actively defended and supported the thousands of faceless men and women manning our polling locations and elections departments throughout the state.
Some Republicans have expressed fear that they won’t ever win big elections again, and rightfully so … but not because of actual widespread criminality. It is because ordinary Americans, including principled Republicans and many independents, refused to entertain the pathetic claims of widespread fraud and dangerous conspiracy theories propagated by their tax-cheating, draft-dodging Presidential candidate after he lost this past November. They will continue to lose if they remain on their current path of insanity, rather than stand for the aspirational values and ideas that made America great in the first place.
A political party led by leaders empty of morals cannot survive for long on a diet of lies and conspiracy theories. To borrow a recent quote from Gabriel Sterling, ‘We can’t be making public policy based on essentially lie after lie after lie that had been done for partisan reasons. ‘For those of us who have ever played any form of organized sports, we were always taught to play to win but also to lose with grace. That’s not what happened after November 3, 2020. What has happened is simply un-American. Over 45 years ago, my family left Saigon before the fall of South Vietnam to Communist North Vietnam. A unified Vietnam under Communist one-party rule has not held free and fair elections since 1975. I was taught never to take our precious freedoms for granted. This cause is personal for me. If men and women such as Pat Tillman and Humayun Khan were willing to die fighting to defend our American Democracy, then we must be willing to live fighting for it. While my time as a Board member of DeKalb’s Elections may be limited, I will not go quietly into that good night when our democracy is under assault.”