By Gloria Tatum (Senior Staff Writer Atlanta Progressive News)
(APN) QUITMAN — Recently, more than 500 Georgia citizens marched in support of the Quitman Ten Plus Two. As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, the 12 have been accused of voter fraud in a local Board of Education election in Brooks County, Ga., in 2010.
Activists called the Quitman case a modern-day civil rights issue involving voter intimidation and voter suppression. Black elected officials and powerful civil rights leaders from across the state and nation are demanding that Gov. Nathan Deal reinstate board members Dr. Nancy Dennard, Elizabeth Thomas, and Linda Troutman, whom he suspended in January 2012.
Troutman and Thomas had won the election for the Brooks County Board of Education in 2010. The day before Christmas Eve in 2010, they were arrested along with eight other people and charged with alleged voter fraud. They became known as the Quitman Ten. In 2011, two additional people were similarly charged, and the whole group became known as the Quitman Ten Plus Two [not the Quitman Twelve, as previously reported by APN].
In January 2012, Gov. Deal issued an Executive Order removing all three from their positions on the Brooks County Board of Education, thus restoring the White majority on the board. All three of these women have Masters of Education degrees and years of teaching experience.
Individuals representing many organizations were present in Quitman for the “Stop Voter Intimidation and Voter Suppression” March and Rally on Saturday, Feb. 25, including the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials (GABEO), Georgia Conference of Black Mayors, Georgia Legislative Black Caucus, Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda (GCPA), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Georgia Chapter of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Concerned Clergy of Georgia and USA, Association of Black Constructors, Black Caucus of ACCG, and National Action Network.
GABEO held their annual winter conference “Living the Dream – Save the Voting Rights Act” in Quitman at the Shumate Street Church of Christ. Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, president emeritus of the SCLC, and chair of GCPA, was the keynote speaker.
“What you have done in Quitman is what we all need to do: organize, cooperate, commiserate, and win some elections. The people in Quitman won an election and the people who lost got mad and then they won it again. Keep on organizing, keep on voting, keep on pulling together, keep on trusting each other, and we’re going to win this struggle,” Lowery said to the packed church.
State Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) said, the legislative Black caucus had a meeting with the governor where they asked: “Governor, we know you empowered a panel to look into what is happening in Quitman and you acted on their recommendations. One of the members, who sits on that panel, told us that they were only asked to look at what was available in the public domain, and we know you fixed the argument in Quitman, Georgia,” Jones said.
“It is clear to this caucus that the governor does not know his way out of this mess, but we are here to tell him how to get out. Governor, all we want you to do is reinstate those you removed from the school board and get the hell out of Quitman, Georgia,” Jones said.
On Feb. 9, State Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta) and Jones sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to request an investigation into the allegations of election fraud and the resulting indictment of 12 Black residents of Brooks County. The letter also asks the attorney general to submit a letter requesting that the suspension of the three Black members of the Board of Education be submitted for pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act before it can be implemented.
After a mile march for justice to end voter intimidation and voter suppression from the church to the court house in Quitman, other civil rights leaders spoke.
“Tallahassee and Madison County in Florida are dealing with the same problem,” Edward Dubose, president of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, said. Indeed, in Madison County, Fla., nine people were arrested and charged with voter fraud in connection with a local school board election in 2010.
The arrests happened a few months after a new law was passed in Florida that made it illegal for absentee ballots to be sent anywhere other than a voter’s registered address.
One member of the Madison Nine, Judy Ann Crumitie, is suing the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for pulling a gun on her during its investigation into voter fraud in Madison County.
Also Florida’s House Bill 1355, which restricts third-party voter registration, has resulted in several Florida teachers facing fines