No one should ever accept harassment and violence against election workers and voter registration volunteers. Black election workers in Georgia are still fighting to serve their communities in peace, nearly six decades after three voting rights organizers were killed in Mississippi.
Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea Arshaye “Shaye” Moss, testified before the January 6 Committee, detailing the harassment and targeting that began between the 2020 general election and the 2021 Georgia Senate Runoff election.
During her video testimony shared Tuesday, Freeman shared the horror of having the president use his platform and power to attack her by name. Both mother and daughter described fearing for their safety. Previous reports documented countless threats of violence, with no law enforcement agency intervening to protect them in the months after the election.
Moss shared that when she discovered hateful messages on social media, her mother said she was lucky it was 2020 instead of 1920. She’s also fortunate it wasn’t 1964.
Their testimony comes 58 years after Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney, and Michael Schwerner were assassinated by the Ku Klux Klan for helping to register Black voters in Mississippi. According to the SNCC Legacy Project, Schwerner and Chaney were on staff with the Congress of Racial equality (CORE), and Goodman was a summer volunteer. Their bodies would not be found for another six weeks.
Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner knew the risks and believed that helping Black Mississippians actualize the right to vote was a worthwhile endeavor. But no one should compromise their safety or put their lives in danger to ensure others have the right to vote or that those votes are correctly counted.
Giuliani and Trump’s harassment of Freeman and Moss follows the violent racist harassment endured by organizers across the south during the civil rights movement and notably during Freedom Summer. Thankfully, no one suffered bodily harm as a result of Trump-led harassment.
This country cannot simply ignore the anger and hostility at an increasingly diverse electorate in Georgia flipping two U.S. Senate seats and the state’s electoral college votes for Democratic candidates. The multiracial coalition of organizers and voters followed in the footsteps of Freedom Summer organizers like Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman.
Georgia Republican officials amplified unfounded allegations and gave Rudy Giuliani, acting as Trump’s legal representation and lawyer, space to make blatantly false accusations against Freeman, including claiming she was guilty of criminal activity. Freeman was even harassed by a former Kanye employee and Republican supporter, who reached out and tried to coerce Freeman into confessing.
Also, part of protecting election workers is ensuring they have the training, resources and technical support necessary to carry out their duties. Giving space to unfounded allegations and fear-mongering puts people like Moss and Freeman in danger and undermines trust in the electoral process from start to finish.
In his first year in the Senate, Sen. Raphael Warnock introduced a bill that would protect election workers, seeking to address some of the issues experienced by Freeman, Moss and others who reported attacks after the 2020 election. Senate Democrats later included some of the provisions in his bill in the Freedom to Vote Act which unfortunately did not pass the full Senate last year.
With the 2022 midterm election cycle underway, and a Georgia election law motivated by the big lie, election workers remain in harm’s way. Elections cannot happen without poll workers and other election staff carrying out the most basic tasks that lead to a Democracy that works for everyone.