The “Voting Rights Project” Interview
with Kam Williams
Lawyer on a Mission to Preserve the Hard-Fought Right to Vote
Dee Hunter is the Executive Director of The Civil Rights Center, a Washington, DC-based public advocacy organization dedicated to advancing the public interest in the areas of criminal justice reform and voting rights. The Civil Rights Center is a national leader in the fight to end the Crosscheck Program, a discriminatory, GOP project ostensibly-designed to purge masses of minority voters from the polls.
Dee has a long history of political advocacy and organizing. He has worked on numerous political campaigns and for several non-profit political organizations including Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, Ralph Nader’s Appleseed Foundation, Americans for Democratic Action, The American Nurses Association and SEIU. And he is currently a Palast Foundation Fellow.
Dee studied political science at American University and is a graduate of Howard University School of Law. He is currently a Masters of Divinity candidate at Wesley Theological Seminary. here, he talks about launching the Voting Rights Project.
Kam Williams: Hi Dee, thanks for the interview.
Dee Hunter: Thank you, Kam, for covering this important issue.
KW: Why are you launching the Voting Rights Project in Georgia?
DH: The Voting Rights Project is a campaign to combat the GOP mass voter purge scheme called the Crosscheck Program. It is fundamentally flawed, racially and politically discriminatory. The Crosscheck Program is a list of people who have purportedly registered to vote in two different states. The list contains approximately seven million names and is terribly flawed. It has resulted in the mass purging of millions of minority voters. Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, a pioneer of racial and partisan voter suppression, started Crosscheck.
We demand that Georgia end these illegal mass purges. We want to bring attention to Crosscheck, and the widespread voter suppression and persecution of voting rights activists that is going on throughout Georgia. We want to be sure they don’t use Crosscheck to steal the 6th Congressional District like Trump stole the Presidential election. We are starting with Georgia and targeting the 20 most competitive Congressional Districts in states currently using the Crosscheck Program.
KW: What sort of voter suppression has transpired in the state?
DH: The systemic voter suppression and illegal persecution of voting rights activists in Georgia is more reminiscent of 1917 rather than 2017. Georgia officials have engaged in hostile racially and partisan motivated persecution of voting rights activists throughout the state. Its runs from the Governor and Secretary of State offices down to local, county voter registration boards. They first gerrymander the election districts illegally diluting our vote, then pass restrictive ID and registration laws. Next, they reduce the number of places where and the hours during which we can vote, and purge us by the hundreds of thousands using the Crosscheck Program. They also engage in a pattern of harassment and intimidation of voting rights activists. If you register people to vote in certain parts of Georgia you face the possibility of going to jail. People are afraid of retaliation for helping to register people to vote.
KW: How have they been getting away with this?
DH: Georgia has been a pioneer in voter suppression. Gerrymandering of state legislative districts in 2000 was the beginning of the modern onslaught. In 2008, Georgia adopted the Crosscheck Program while other states were dis-enrolling because of its unreliability. But Georgia adopted one of the most stringent Voter ID laws and felony disenfranchisement laws in the country. Elected officials throughout the state have engaged various suppression tactics. Secretary of State Brian Kemp has led the efforts. Kemp’s tenure has been plagued with multiple illegal mass purges. He has unlawfully refused to accept tens of thousands of voter registration applications because of small technical errors.
He has also shortened the period for early voting, reduced the polling places in minority neighborhoods. He has generally engaged in a pattern and practice of harassment and intimidation of voting and civil rights activists.
KW: How do you hope to prevent further violations in Georgia?
DH: I The strategy is threefold. It involves litigation, legislation, and mobilization. We are bringing together some of the most successful voting rights activists and organizations in the state to discuss tactics and strategies to combat Crosscheck, voter suppression and persecution. We are developing a Georgia Voting Rights Act that would stop the Crosscheck Program and other illegal mass purges. It would also liberalize voter registration and make it easier for people to register and to vote. Considering the extent that the GOP controls the legislature and state government, we are in for a long battle. Civil rights and voting rights groups have been quick to turn to the courts to combat voter suppression in Georgia. The results have been mixed. Recent legal victories in redistricting are encouraging. Even when courts have ruled in favor of voting rights activists the state has refused to follow court orders. Activists are begging to bring lawsuits against election officials and other state officials in their personal capacity when they persecute activists and abuse their power. We must increase awareness and engagement. The same passion shown in the fight to save healthcare must be applied to voting rights. Trump won the state by 200,000 votes. If we increase minority turnout by three percent, candidates that would support expanding voting rights would win statewide. It is literally going to take hand-to-hand combat, door-to-door grassroots organizing at the neighborhood level.
KW: What do you think of Trump’s Election Integrity Commission?
DH: It should be more appropriately called the Voter Suppression Commission. It is a very dangerous development. Kobach is the chair of this commission and will use it to make it more difficult to register to vote and to vote. Trump is delusional. His claim that millions of people committed voter fraud costing him the popular vote is just as valid as his assertion that the Russian interference in the election is “fake news.” Any Secretary of State involved with this commission is assisting the enemies of voting rights.
KW What is the next stop for The Voting Rights Project?
DH: We are organizing in Virginia in June and in North Carolina in July. We are targeting the most competitive Congressional Districts in every state participating in Crosscheck. They stole the 2016 presidential election. We are going to fight to make sure they don’t steal another.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Dee, and best of luck with the Voting Rights Project.
DH: Thank you for taking the time to cover this important issue, Kam.