“Democracy is resilient, but it’s always vulnerable,” the politician said onstage at Code Conference 2019.
Last year, Stacey Abrams ran a historic race for governor of Georgia, winning more votes than any other Democrat who has run for statewide office in the state’s history. She lost to her Republican opponent in a highly disputed outcome, with some alleging that widespread voter suppression benefitted her opponent.
Now, Abrams is campaigning to fight voter suppression — but she says it’s not about her. It’s about protecting all Americans’ right to vote.
“The minute it becomes about me or a single election, we missed the point. This is about whether voters’ voices can be heard; it’s about whether citizens are allowed to be voters,” said Abrams, speaking onstage with Recode’s Kara Swisher and Vox’s Ezra Klein at the Code Conference in Scottsdale. Abrams went on to cite “systematic” issues with voting rights in states from North Carolina to New York, which is why she founded Fair Fight Action, a voting rights organization dedicated to battling voter suppression in the US.
Abrams was joined onstage by her former campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, who is now the CEO of Fair Fight Action.
When asked about whether online voting could help, Abrams said there may come a time when that would work, but that the US isn’t “anywhere near” being ready for that. If anything, she said, we should go back to analog, hand-marked paper ballots.
And while Abrams acknowledged tech’s ability to bolster democracy, she said she wished the tech industry better understood its ability to “level the playing field” by doing a better job sharing accurate and helpful information to groups who are underrepresented at the ballot box.
“What tech has to understand is that it’s a battlefield,” Groh-Wargo added, referring to the online environment for political discourse. She said that during Abrams’ gubernatorial campaign, the team dealt with violent threats against Abrams and attempts at foreign interference, both of which the campaign deterred. But it wasn’t all negative; Groh-Wargo said that social media also helped the campaign track threats that likely would have been launched against Abrams no matter what.
Recode and Vox have joined forces to uncover and explain how our digital world is changing — and changing us. Subscribe to Recode podcasts to hear Kara Swisher and Peter Kafka lead the tough conversations the technology industry needs today.
Author: Shirin Ghaffary