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Reckoning With Georgia’s Increasing Suppression of Asian American Voters

Getty / Associated Press / Flickr CC / Photo illustration by Katie Kosma

Anjali Enjeti | Longreads | December 2018 | 18 minutes (4620 words)

 

Early on November 6, Election Day, Kavi Vu noticed that some voters appeared distressed as they exited Lucky Shoals Park Recreation Center, one of five polling places in Gwinnett County, Georgia. A volunteer with the nonprofit, nonpartisan civil rights organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice — Atlanta (“Advancing Justice”), Vu had been standing outside to answer questions about voting and offer her services as a Vietnamese translator.

When she began asking the mostly African American, Asian American and Latinx voters about their voting experiences, she learned that after 2.5 hour wait times, many of them had voted via provisional ballots.

Why? As it turned out, Lucky Shoals was not their correct voting location. “A lot of people had lived in Gwinnett County their entire lives and voted at the same location and all of the sudden they were switched up to new location,” Vu said.

So when poll workers offered voters the option of voting at Lucky Shoals with provisional ballots, rather than driving elsewhere to wait in another line, the voters took them up on it. They left with I’m a Georgia Voter stickers, and printed instructions for how to cure their ballots. But poll workers didn’t verbally explain to the voters that they’d need to appear at the county registrar’s office within three days to cure their ballots, nor did the poll workers make it clear that the votes would not count at all if the voters failed to do so. What’s more, as the day wore on, poll workers ran out of the provisional ballot instructions altogether.

Vu was alarmed. In an attempt to reduce the number of voters using provisional ballots, she began offering to help voters locate their correct polling place using the Secretary of State website. That’s when poll workers repeatedly began confronting her about her presence outside of the polling place. “They told me to stop speaking with voters in line, even after I explained what I was doing.”

By mid-afternoon, Vu counted some 100 voters who had wrongly reported to Lucky Shoals. When she finally left eight hours after arriving, she was “heartbroken,” over the dreadful conditions at the polling place and the number of votes by minority voters that would likely never be counted.

Read more…

Drinking Chai to Savannah: Reflections on Identity, Inclusion and Power in the South

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad

Anjali Enjeti | Longreads | January 2017 | 10 minutes (2,425 words)

I am sitting in the middle seat of the third row of a minivan. A heap of purses crowd my feet. Elbows and knees jab my sides. We are gridlocked on I-285 during Atlanta evening rush hour in a crawl-pause rhythm, our progress as tedious as arranging the frames of a stop motion animation film. The nose of our van points southeast to Savannah, the historic coastal town Union Army General Sherman spared during the Civil War. When raindrops the size of nickels smack our windshield, the hazard lights on surrounding vehicles blink on like garlands of bulbs on a Christmas tree.

“Hey,” my friend in the second row calls, craning her neck to make eye contact. “Do you want chai?”

I lean forward. The seatbelt catches my breastbone. “You want to make a stop already? We’ll never get there at this rate.”

“No, no,” says the driver, my neighbor from up the street. “We brought a thermos. And cups.”

I am incredulous, not only because my friends thought to pack chai on a four-hour road trip, but because, judging by the way the rest of my friends continue their chatter, I am the only person who finds it odd.

It’s no wonder. Among our seven passengers, six have immigrated to the U.S. from South Asia. They sip chai from morning to night. Percolating pots of fresh ginger, full fat milk and cardamom serve as background music in their homes.

I am the only one of us born and raised in the States, the only one who considers bagged tea to be actual tea, the one who stubbornly refuses to wear saris to celebrate South Asian holidays, the clueless audience for conversations rattled off in Hindi, a language I don’t understand.

I am the interpreter of academic monograms like S.A.T. and A.P., the friend who suggests they not worry so much about their kids’ grades or test scores, the beloved Aunty who sticks up for their children whenever a parental rule interferes with their enjoyment of authentically American childhoods.

Steam from the chai forms a layer of film on my face. I inhale its aroma, hopeful it will ease the dull ache in my gut, the sinking feeling my friends probably can’t decipher because they grew up in countries where their brown skin and names did not summarily mark them as outsiders. Not even these ladies, my closest friends, know that I harbor a deep-seated fear of small American cities and towns.

Like the one we’re headed to. Read more…