Dozens of black senior citizens in rural Georgia were ordered off a bus bound for the polls after county officials said the event constituted prohibited “political activity.”
A Jefferson County clerk reportedly told staff members from the Leisure Center in Louisville on Monday ― the first day of in-person early voting in Georgia ― that roughly 40 black people couldn’t take part in the trip after receiving a complaint from an unnamed caller.
The trip had been organized by the nonpartisan Black Voters Matter, which is embarking on a bus tour across several southern states with the goal of urging black people to vote. The caller said the bus, which was painted with the words “The South is Rising Tour,” should not be allowed to bring people to the polls, reported The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Jefferson County Administrator Adam Brett said the trip, set to depart from a county-run senior center, was political and therefore violated guidelines imposed on county-sponsored events, the AJC reported. Although Black Voters Matter is a nonpartisan organization, Jefferson County Democratic Party Chairwoman Diane Evans helped organize the event.
Officials “felt uncomfortable with allowing senior center patrons to leave the facility in a bus with an unknown third party,” Brett told the AJC. “No seniors at the Jefferson County senior center were denied their right to vote.”
A representative for the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
But Black Voters Matter co-founder LaTosha Brown pushed back on Brett’s reasoning for ending the trip.
“We knew it was an intimidation tactic,” Brown told the AJC. “It was really unnecessary. These are grown people.”
The hopeful voters were initially told by the senior center’s staffers that they could ride in a county van to cast their ballots but were then instructed to go inside for lunch and vote another day, according to Brown.
A video posted to Black Voters Matter’s Twitter page shows the senior citizens dancing and cheering before boarding the bus.
“What happened was a real issue,” Brown says in the video. “But it ain’t going to stop us. Can’t stop, won’t stop.”
Georgia is home to one of the most contentious gubernatorial races in the country. Accusations of voter suppression have swirled as Democrat Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s first black female nominee for governor, faces off against the state’s Republican secretary of state, Brian Kemp.
The Associated Press reported last week that over 53,000 voter applications ― nearly 70 percent of which were from black applicants ― were on hold with Kemp’s office.