Georgia has suddenly become a battleground state—largely thanks to Stacey Abrams

Four years ago, no one would have expected that Georgia would be a battleground state in the 2020 presidential election.

Well, not no one. Stacey Abrams not only saw it coming, she played a big role in making it happen.

The former member of the Georgia state legislature became the first Black American woman to run for governor of a state under a major party in 2018. She lost to Republican Brian Kemp by just 1.5% in a hotly contested election. Kemp, who was Georgia's Secretary of State at the time, has been accused of engaging in voter suppression, making it harder for minorities in the state exercise their right to vote. Abrams refused to officially concede the election, claiming that Kemp had a conflict of interest as the person in charge of his own election.

After the gubernatorial race came to close, Abrams took the issue of voter suppression on with gusto. She had already spent years advocating for voter rights as a lawyer and lawmaker and continued the effort by founding an organization called Fair Fight that focuses on funding and training people to protect the vote in 20 battleground states, with a special emphasis on her home state of Georgia.


One of the main strategies Abrams has engaged in is getting enough voters registered and motivated to turn out on election days any voter suppression tactics that might be employed would be unsuccessful due to sheer numbers.

"Our goal through Fair Fight and Fair Fight 2020 is to ensure that people know about the obstacles that are being placed in their way, but (are encouraged to) vote in even larger numbers to overwhelm the intention of the system," Abrams told USA TODAY.

According to USA Today, Democrats had seen potential in Georgia's changing demographics. The city of Atlanta, in particular, has drawn a more educated workforce from around the country, which also includes potentially younger Asian, Black and Latino voters. Other counties that were once Republican strongholds have also become more diverse, opening the door to Democrats, who tend to draw more non-white support than Republicans.

Abrams' focus on getting those voters registered and ready to show up at the polls has paid off. A reliably red state for decades, Georgia is now in play. But it's not just as simple as getting people to the polls. Abrams has a deep pool of historical knowledge and a keen understanding of the systems in place that make it harder for people to exercise their civic duty.

In an interview with Ezra Klein at Vox, Abrams explained that there is no Constitutional right to vote.

"The reality is that the right to vote does not exist as an affirmative opportunity," she said. "What does exist in the Constitution is the delegation of authority for the administration of elections to states, which sounds very benign until you realize that for most of American history, voter suppression has been almost entirely the construct of states.

What the Voting Rights Act did in 1965 was shatter the impermeable nature of states to say who could and could not vote. The Voting Rights Act said you could not use race — and, by 1975, that you could not use language — as a way to preclude access to the right to vote. It said that states could not take proactive steps to block the right to vote through poll taxes, literacy tests, closing of polling places — any action that would interfere with the right of people of color, or people who spoke English as a second language, to vote. In states that had a long and storied history of blocking the right to vote, no new voting laws could be countenanced without having the Department of Justice approve."

The Voting Rights Act helped get the U.S. to a place where we elected our first Black president in 2008 and again in 2012. Then, in 2013, it was gutted by a Supreme Court case that essentially removed the rule that states had to get their voter rules approved by the federal government.

"That was essentially a get out of jail free card for states that wanted to discriminate; what was different this time is that it was no longer relegated to those states that participated in voter suppression through Jim Crow," said Abrams.

"You had a proliferation across the country of voter suppression techniques that had been prohibited clearly by the Voting Rights Act. That's why you saw the rapid shutdown of polling places. That's why you saw the expansion of restrictive voter ID laws. That's why in 2020, we are seeing so many cases that essentially challenge state laws designed to restrict who has access to the right to vote."

Thanks to Abrams' efforts—among others—to ensure that more Americans have their voices heard at the ballot box, Georgia may end up turning blue. In the very least, it's now a solid purple, which is a huge accomplishment for those who have worked so hard to enfranchise voters.


Thank you, Stacey Abrams, and all the other warriors fighting for voter protection, for carrying America to the finish line of this hard-fought race.

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Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.

World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.

"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.

"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.

The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."

Each CARE Package contained rations that had once been reserved for soldiers, but were now being redirected to civilians who had suffered as a result of the conflict. The packages cost $10 to send, and they were guaranteed to arrive at their destination within four months.

Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, got involved, and on May 11, 1946, the first 15,000 packages were sent to Le Havre in France, a port badly battered during the war.

Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.

Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.

The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.

But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.

Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.

Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.

From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.

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Seeing someone who has a long record of sobriety—especially after a very public struggle—can be motivating and inspiring for others in different stages of their recovery journey. That's part of why actor Rob Lowe's announcement that he's reached 31 years sober is definitely something to celebrate.

"Today I have 31 years drug and alcohol free," Lowe wrote on Twitter. "I want to give thanks to everyone walking this path with me, and welcome anyone thinking about joining us; the free and the happy. And a big hug to my family for putting up with me!! Xoxo"

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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