Local party leader fires back claiming Jefferson County voter suppression

CSRA News

There is more fallout from a story out of Jefferson County making national news this election season.  The local Democratic Committee Chairwoman is standing by her claim that there was voter suppression with a group of black senior citizens during day one of early voting. 

Chairwoman Diane Evans was brought to tears during her NewsChannel 6 interview.  She claims she and Black Voters Matter never made plans to take Jefferson County Leisure Center seniors to vote.  Instead, she fired back at county leaders saying they, in fact, denied seniors the right to vote. 

“And they get on this bus,” she said of the Black Voters Matter bus.  “And [then] they get on this second one [bus] and they say well they ‘gon take us off that.”

Standing by her claim of voter suppression, Jefferson County Democratic Chairwoman Diane Evans said Leisure Center seniors were not just kicked off the Black Voters Matter bus, but they were also told to leave the county’s transit van that was headed to the polls.

“Seven of them wanted to get on the white bus, this white transit bus.  And this lady that came on the walker and this 90-year-old lady, 70-year-old ladies who went through the struggles,” she said.  

Evans, who noted the county’s slave and civil rights history, sent an email Sunday night to the center’s director, Tammie Bennett.  In that email, she requested permission to encourage “Senior Voters to Vote” and support a political event occurring that Monday.  She said she never mentioned Black Voters Matter taking the seniors to cast a ballot because that was never the plan.  

She explained, “They seen this big thing, this big bus and said I want to ride the bus, the big black bus.  Then the rest of them said, I want to ride the bus.  Then I said Ms. Tammie can we just take them to the poll and then the white van was going to go behind us.”  Evans added that the group got caught up in the emotional break out of gearing up to vote, which included singing and dancing.  She said she wanted the county’s white transit van to follow the Black Voters Matter bus because the group was not going to stay local. 

When we spoke with one of the seniors on that bus, she told us just how enamored she was when she saw it. 

“They had a surprise and I had never seen a bus like that and so, curiosity,” said Leisure Center Member Nola Cunningham.

Jefferson County Administrator Adam Brett declined to comment further on the issue, but he did tell NewsChannel 6 on Wednesday that the seniors were not allowed on the Black Voters Matter bus because the group was not vetted, had no waivers and the event was political. Evans said she believes the entire ordeal is a personal attack against her.

“I think they crossed the line and it became voter suppression when you did not allow that second bus,” she said.

Brett told us the county would not be responding any further. They are standing behind what they told us Wednesday, that Black Voters Matter was not vetted, no waivers were involved and that what they did was a political event. 

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