Last night, the fifth Democratic Debate in Atlanta addressed topics that hadn’t been focused on as much in the past debates: abortion rights and voter suppression. The 2018 gubernatorial race in Georgia sparked allegations of voter suppression for minority voters, including African-Americans. According to The New York Times, “exceptionally long lines in predominantly black voting precincts” were reported, as well as “properly registered voters being forced to use provisional ballots, voters being turned away even with proper ID, and precincts being closed to relocated with little advance notice.” Because of this, Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams lost to Republican candidate Brian Kemp. The New York Times states that “an Associated Press report published during the 2018 election found that Mr. Kemp had stalled more than 50,000 registrations of voters who were mostly black, claiming issues with their applications” when he was the Georgia secretary of state and in charge of running the election.
Some of the candidates have previously talked about voter suppression and abortion rights, but it wasn’t until last night's debate —hosted by an all-women panel — that the topics became main issues of discussion.
When asked about voter suppression, Amy Klobuchar reiterated that people should be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18. She also wants to stop the unbelievable practice where there are still 11 states that don’t have backup paper ballots. Pete Buttigieg said that, with the White House in the right hands, Election Day can be made a federal holiday.
Klobuchar was asked the question: If Roe v. Wade gets overturned and abortion access disappears in some states, would you intervene as president to try to bring that access back? Klobuchar responded that we should codify Roe v. Wade into law, and she continued by saying that over 70 percent of people support Roe v. Wade, and over 90 percent of the people support federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
The moderators asked Elizabeth Warren if there was room in the Democratic Party for someone like Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards, who signed a law restricting abortion. Warren responded by saying she believes abortion rights are human rights, as well as economic rights. She went on the reiterate that protecting the right of a woman to be able to make decisions about her own body is fundamentally what we do and what we stand for as a Democratic Party. As Warren noted, certain demographics will be disproportionately affected if abortions are made illegal. "Rich women will still get abortions," she said. "It's just going to fall hard on poor women. I want to be an America where everybody has a chance."
Bernie Sanders was given the same question, to which he replied, “If there’s ever a time in American history where the men of this country must stand with the women, this is the moment.”
Cory Booker connected both issues by saying that abortion rights were a voter suppression issue, citing Georgia's recent heartbeat bill. "This bill opposed by over 70 percent — the heartbeat bill here opposed by over 70 percent of Georgians — is the result from voter suppression," he said. "This gets back to the issue about making sure we are fighting every single day, that whoever is the nominee, they can overcome the attempts to suppress the votes, particularly of low-income and minority voters and particularly in the black communities we saw here in Georgia."
These two concerns are some of the most important issues that are causing potential voters to choose their candidates, so it’s about time these questions were asked at one of the debates. Hopefully, these conversations will continue at the next Democratic debate in December. We need to know that we’re voting for people who actually want to allow us to vote and make decisions about our own bodies. These are our human rights.
Header photo courtesy of MSNBC via YouTube
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Kerry Cunningham is an editorial intern at BUST. She is a Chicago-raised Pisces who is doing her best and currently lives in New York. If anyone is looking to have a conversation, she is also looking to have one.