Image of the “100,000 square foot” Tate Center, its “95,000 square foot addition,” and the tiny stadium you can just barely make out sitting across the street, from the architecture firm Cooper Carry’s website
For a while I’ve been reading Stacey Abrams’s book Our Time Is Now, but I had to put it on hold. I was trying to read it before bed, and it would make me too angry to get to sleep. I knew that my home state of Georgia had had a contentious election for governor, and that the presumptive “winner” of the election, Brian Kemp, was known nation-wide for pulling some extraordinarily shady and undeniably unethical maneuvers to push the vote in his favor. Unethical as in the secretary of state refusing to recuse himself from overseeing an election in which he was a candidate.
What I hadn’t known was that “unethical” was the charitable interpretation. Kemp and the Georgia Republicans were guilty of blatant voter suppression. Abrams pulls no punches in the book, calling it like it is. And knowing that they would so casually and blatantly subvert democracy like that, and assume that it didn’t matter if anyone found out, is absolutely infuriating. Even more infuriating that they kept up their voter suppression for the 2018 election, forcing people in some districts to sacrifice an entire day trying to get into their understaffed and under-equipped polling station. One of the most egregious offenses was purging hundreds of thousands of registered voters, disproportionately in Democratic-leaning areas.
Most recently there’s been a bit of voter-suppression fuckery from my alma mater, the University of Georgia. The “UGAVotes” Twitter account announced that the Tate Student Center wouldn’t be made available for voting, giving the excuse that it was because of “concerns about social distancing.” Instead, students would be able to vote in downtown Athens, and they’d even be provided with a shuttle!
It didn’t take long for people to point out the obvious problems with that. Sending 37,000 students to the same polling places as the other 125,000 residents of Athens is likely to cause the same kinds of delays and long line-ups that plagued the majority-black-or-Democrat districts in 2018. It would also be no safer than the student center, because you’d be just causing a greater concentration of people in downtown Athens instead of a few blocks away.
Most obviously — and most infuriatingly — it’s absurdly hypocritical, since the University has decided that football games at the stadium, which is literally across the street from the student center, are safe. UGA’s Twitter responded with the smarmiest and most condescending thing I’ve seen in quite some time:
“Those comparing this matter to a football game should be able to recognize that football games will be played outdoors but we will still require social distancing by substantially reducing capacity to the stadium. We have eliminated tailgating as well due to a desire to keep the campus as safe as possible and limit visitors during the pandemic.”
Twitter is horrible and is responsible for so many bad things, but it did make me happy to see so many people calling them out for such a blatantly self-serving and hypocritical statement. After people nationwide responded to their bullshit by pointing out that if the stadium — which again, is just across the street — is so safe, they could just use it as a polling place, the University eventually responded with an unctuous bit of finger-pointing, offering the Coliseum, if approved by the Secretary of State and the local election office. Because you know, if there is any group that’s proven itself to be a bastion of integrity and honesty, it’s Georgia’s Secretary of State and local election boards.
After having spent four years at UGA, I have to say I’m kind of at a loss as to why the GOP is so devoted to keeping the students from voting. While the students are generally better educated and more ethnically diverse — which is to say, not Republican — there’s also an obsessive, overwhelming devotion to the football program and alumni donations that fund it, and to the Greek System — which is to say, extremely Republican.
I should mention that I don’t know for sure whether the members of the UGA administration making these decisions are actually Republicans, but I would be stunned speechless to discover that they weren’t. Every executive at UGA that I was aware of was a weird hybrid of the dean from Animal House and one of Paula Deen’s sons. A kind of good-ol’-dean that I can easy imagine forming a human centipede of sycophants from Athens to Kemp’s office in Atlanta and all the way up to the seat of Trump’s favorite Fox News-watching recliner.
But it is good for an embittered chuckle to see the conundrums the GOP gets into when their evil schemes clash with each other. They need COVID-19 to be just dangerous enough that it prevents liberal arts majors just finding out about class inequality from being able to vote, but not so dangerous that it keeps them from stuffing students into dorm rooms and classrooms to get their tuition, or keeps them from stuffing a bunch of drunk people into their comically overpriced seats in a football stadium. It’d be almost funny — if it weren’t politicizing a deadly and highly contagious disease for the purposes of subverting American democracy. Maybe you had to be there.