Editor’s Note: Don Winslow is the author of bestsellers including The Power of the Dog, The Winter of Frankie Machine, The Force and most recently the novella collection Broken. He writes occasional columns for Deadline, including a recent week’s worth on his experiences in Hollywood. Today, he expresses his outrage over the ineptitude of yesterday’s Georgia primaries that left voters waiting hours to cast their ballots. Winslow sees this as no accident; he believes it was a deliberate attempt to suppress the vote and sees it as a warning shot on what might happen in November. He is upset enough that he will stipulate to any studios or networks that option his work that shooting cannot take place in Georgia until it reforms its polling process.
Voting is an American citizen’s most basic and inalienable right, the absolute foundation of our republic.
It’s simple – no fair election, no democracy.
That’s just what this administration and its cohorts in too many states want – to kill our democracy by suppressing the vote.
Sadly, one of those states is Georgia.
Yesterday’s election was a disgraceful travesty.
Impossibly long lines, inoperable machines, understaffed voting sites, unavailable absentee ballots and a myriad of other problems caused a chaotic, uncertain, and unfair election. To the surprise of no one, these problems were most acute for African-American voters.
Whether it’s the deliberate culling of the voter rolls, as Governor Kemp did to steal the 2018 gubernatorial election from Stacey Abrams, or the blazing – and I think, deliberate – incompetence that was on brutal display in yesterday’s election, the intent is the same. The entrenched powers-that-be know that they will be defeated if all eligible voters get to cast their ballots.
This is true in Georgia, it is true nation-wide.
Kemp knows that, Barr knows that, and Trump knows that.
They know they can’t win fairly, so they cheat.
Let’s don’t be naïve – while there were problems voting in both traditionally Republican and Democratic precincts in Georgia, the worst problems were in areas where the majority of eligible voters were African-American. Voting in white precincts generally took minutes, in black districts it generally took hours.
The people in charge– the Governor and Secretary of State – will say that this wasn’t deliberate.
Well, at a certain point, incompetence is deliberate.
Neglect is deliberate.
Underfunding and understaffing are deliberate.
Even assuming no conscious malfeasance on the part of the state government – and that’s a highly generous assumption given their record -those officials are still responsible, by law, for holding free and fair elections. If you have a broken machine and you don’t do anything to fix it, year after year, decade after decade, then that neglect approaches a criminal level.
If machines and equipment aren’t ready when the polls open, if there aren’t adequate scanners, printer or paper, if voting sites are understaffed, voting rolls incomplete, if people who have to go to jobs are kept waiting for five, six, seven hours to cast their votes, if absentee voters can’t vote at all, that is, cumulatively, voter suppression. That is a failure – willing or no – of elected officials to do the job that the law mandates them to do.
Collectively, these flaws are an intentional and ongoing effort to suppress the rights of African-Americans. And let’s be honest, they haven’t been made to wait hours for full citizenship, they’ve been made to wait centuries.
The upcoming election of 2020 is the most important election since 1860.
Either we will restore our democracy or we will watch ourselves slip into the shabby Fascism that Trump and his Banana Republican sycophants are already busy trying to establish.
They will stop at nothing.
There is not a bar they will not slither under to maintain their positions.
Don’t be fooled – the attempts to steal the 2020 elections are already underway.
Even before he took office, Trump was promulgating lies about voter fraud to dismiss his loss of the popular vote. It is only one of the literally thousands of lies he has told, a canard that his dreary series of mindless mouthpieces have robotically repeated, but it is an especially virulent fraud because it attacks the very basis of our representative government and lays track for the organized voter suppression that Trump and his party have engaged in from day one.
Witness their efforts to oppose mail-in ballots, again, citing fraud without the least bit of evidence. They know that the easier, simpler and more honest that voting becomes, the more likely those votes will throw them out of office. (Although I’m not sure that Dugout Don has fully appreciated the mail-in vote – that he could cast his ballot without ever leaving the safety of his bunker.)
Witness Trump’s creation of the of the ‘Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’ which he established with great fanfare to back up his unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, and which was quietly disbanded in January of 2018 because states wisely refused to provide information, mostly because there was no information to supply.
Witness his threat to hold up relief funds to Michigan over the issue of what he called ‘illegal’ absentee ballots, which were perfectly legal.
What we saw in Georgia yesterday was part and parcel of that effort.
It cannot be allowed to continue.
It has to stop.
What can we do? Talking is not enough, writing opinion columns is not sufficient. We must take action.
We each must do what we can.
Here’s where I’m at:
I’m a novelist by trade – I write mostly crime fiction.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to sell a number of my books to networks and studios for television and film adaptation. I will unequivocally state now that I will allow no film or television show based on one of my works to be shot in the state of Georgia until its government takes immediate, real and concrete steps to ensure free and fair elections and to end voter suppression.
If that means that the project is scrapped, so be it.
I urge my colleagues to join me in this stance. It might hurt, it might lighten our pockets. But it will also lighten our consciences. We cannot stand on the sidelines and simply comment, as well-intentioned as those comments might be.
I truly hate to take this step. Boycotts are tricky things, double-edged swords that can sometimes injure the very people that they are trying to empower. I have nothing against the people of Georgia. I have always been treated beautifully and enjoyed any time that I’ve spent there.
But something must be done.
The people of Georgia – all the people of Georgia – must be allowed to participate fully in the political life of their state. They must be allowed to vote in free and fair elections. That is their right as Georgians, it is their right as Americans.
And as Americans, we must stand up for the legitimacy of our elections.
We have five months until the general election to get this right and we must do so. The price of getting it wrong is too high – the end of democracy as we know it. I know that sounds alarmist fine – I’m sounding the alarm bell. Things that we never imagined would happen have already happened in the three years of this, the most corrupt, dishonest, incompetent administration in this country’s history. What is happening in Georgia is the canary in the coal mine. If we allow voter suppression to continue – in Georgia or anywhere else- we are willfully committing societal suicide.
Let’s join together.
Let’s say in a strong, meaningful voice that our votes – and the votes of all our fellow citizens – must not and will not be suppressed.