Local ‘Black Voters Matter’ organization parked outside of voting location igniting debate in Dougherty County
ALBANY, Ga. – A “Black Voters Matter” van sparking controversy in Dougherty County. Leaders with the group say they’re outside a polling place to be helpful to all voters that pass by.
But others say they’re breaking the rules.
“I’ve done my homework on these groups, they are not out for anybody’s good, not Black not white, they are out to take over this country by any means necessary,” says Dougherty County resident Sarah Webster.
Webster says she noticed the Black Voters Matter Van on her way to Dougherty County’s only early voting location on 125 Pine Ave.
“I did a little research on that van,” says Webster, “They are heavily associated with and funded by the Democratic Party and they are a Marxist group.”
Georgia law prohibits certain activities within the vicinity of any polling place. Activities like campaigning, exit polling, distributing or displaying any campaign literature are prohibited within 150 feet of a voting location. The Black Voters Matter van is close to the voting area, and as a result, there have been complaints to the county about the group compaigning or representing a political party.
But group member, James Pratt says they aren’t out campaigning and that the local chapter is a 501 c organization and he says since day one of early voting, the van and group members have taken it upon themselves to hand out water, snacks, fruit, sample ballots and voter information to hundreds of people waiting to cast their ballots.
“We’re a non-partisan group so we support no party,” says Pratt, “We want to make sure that people feel good about voting and make sure they stay in line and stay committed to voting given the two to three hour waits that people have been experiencing. That’s what Black Voters Matter is all about. We’re here to support and love on people in the line.”
However, not everyone has been feeling the love. Members of the organization filed a police report on Webster stating she made racist remarks during a confrontation between her and group members. The report also states that Webster was seen showing a gun.
In response to the accusation, Webster says, “The activists chased me to my car. I was in fear for my life, I had a weapon that was not pulled out at the polls it was put on my hip as I was heading to my car and it made those women back off of chasing me, it probably saved my life.”
Members of Black Voters Matter said they did not chase Webster and showed South Georgia TV a video in which Webster is walking to her car. The video that was provided by Black Voters Matter member Amna Farooqi is attached below:
The Albany Police Department says the case remains active pending further investigation. But for now, the organization has been asked by County officials to remain 150 feet from the voting location. A requirement designated to politically affiliated groups.
Or they could face consequences.
In a video posted to the Dougherty County Official Government Facebook page, County Administrator Michael McCoy said to members of the group, “I want everyone to know, if you violate the boundaries, if you violate the rules, that I have asked or I will be asking the Sheriff, I have already asked the Chief Deputy to take action.”
Pratt says the accusations of group members campaigning within 150 feet of the early voting location are false.
“I’m really sick and tired of all the lies,” says Webster, “look up Marxism, look up who’s funding Black Voters Matter and Black Lives Matter… people are trying to tell me that this isn’t a political organization but they are.”
“We have talked to the ACLU and other legal organizations to ensure that we’re right in the law and we have made sure that we’re right in the law,” says Pratt, “People do this every election season, we’re seeing a lot more of it this particular season but it has been done before and we’re just increasing numbers and a lot of people are fearful of the words ‘Black Voters Matter’ and that’s where a lot of the fear has come from.”
There will be an Election Board meeting Wednesday at 4 p.m. to address comments, concerns and complaints.