This year, communities across our state and throughout America have stood up and demanded justice for Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and the countless Black people who have been killed by the police. On Nov. 3, Georgians can help advance criminal justice reform efforts by voting in down-ballot elections like those for the local sheriff.
In 2020, we need to be educating ourselves about who is policing us and make sure we’re voting for people who value our lives. That’s why New Georgia Project, in partnership with Georgia NAACP and Advancement Project National Office, created TransformGeorgia.org, an online tool to help Georgia voters learn more about their local sheriff elections.
In each of Georgia’s 159 counties, sheriffs are the highest law enforcement authority—and in many counties, they are the only police force. They make traffic stops, police our schools, oversee jails, and turn undocumented people in for deportation. In many counties, they receive tens of millions of dollars in funding—money that could be put to use investing in our communities instead of criminalizing us.
Voting is our superpower; it offers a direct opportunity to influence how our communities are treated by the criminal legal system. In Georgia, sheriffs oversee 143 county jails that hold 31,159 people, 67 percent of whom are being detained pre-trial, meaning they haven’t been proven guilty, according to the state’s Department of Community Affairs.
Through cooperation agreements with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Georgia sheriffs and other local law enforcement agencies have conducted traffic stops that have led to more than 7,000 people being removed from their communities.
Voting alone isn’t going to fix this broken system, but it is a critical piece of the effort to pressure sheriffs and other elected officials to make real changes. Who we vote for sends a message: we won’t stand for more of the same injustice—and if sheriffs continue to target us, break up our families, and lock us up, then they can expect to hear from us next election.
Throughout Georgia’s history, Black people fought for every inch of progress in our state—and as New Georgia Project works to organize and empower neighborhoods from Atlanta to Albany, it is evident that our community is once again leading the effort to make Georgia a more just, equitable place for all people.
We have an important opportunity this upcoming Tuesday to exercise our power, hold law enforcement accountable, and advance this fight. Make sure to get out there and vote!