With another gubernatorial campaign ahead of her, liberal activist Stacey Abrams saw her latest legal effort to strike down Georgia’s “exact match” ID and citizenship checks for voters hit a major pothole when one of her group’s expert witnesses got blistered in cross-examination in federal court.
Adrienne Jones, a 22-year political science professor at Morehouse College in Atlanta, was called last Friday by Abrams’ Fair Fight Action Inc. group as an expert witness in the ongoing civil trial against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other state officials defending their voter integrity rules.
Jones was immediately put on the defensive by the lawyer representing Raffensperger and the other state officials, forced to admit to penning several incendiary writings.
One was a column where she called for black women to “overthrow” President Donald Trump. Another was an article where she claimed Republicans wanted to create “internment camps” for Americans, according to a trial transcript reviewed by Just the News.
Jones also had to acknowledge she made a political contribution to Sarah Tindall Ghazal, one of the State Election Board members that Abrams’ group has sued in the case. The expert witness wasn’t even aware Ghazal was a defendant.
“You actually contributed to Ms. Ghazal’s past campaign, right?” defense attorney Carey Miller asked at one point.
“I did,” the professor answered.
“And you are aware that Ms. Ghazal is a defendant in this case?” the lawyer asked.
“No,” Jones answered.
Jones contributed a total of $315 to Ghazal’s campaign for state representative in 2020.
Miller’s polite but intense cross-examination was interrupted several times by objections from plaintiff’s lawyers hoping the court would stop it. But U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones declined, saying the lines of questioning were fair game.
“I think Mr. Miller is trying to discredit this witness. … I think he is allowed to do it,” the judge said at one point.
At another point, the judge acknowledged, “I’m assuming he’s offering this trying to show me that, hey, that this witness is biased.”
Jones is presiding over what many see as a high-stakes voting rights bench trial — with no jury — as he tries to evaluate Fair Fight’s claims that Georgia’s requirement for “exact match” voter ID and citizenship checks violate the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.
Fair Fight, founded by Abrams after she lost the Georgia’s governor race in 2018 to Republican Brian Kemp, argues the voter integrity checks “violate the fundamental right to vote as guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments,” “racially discriminate against Georgians of color” and “discriminate against Georgians based on where they live and based on naturalized citizenship status in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.”
Liberals are hoping the lawsuit will loosen election integrity checks that they see as oppressive, while conservatives fear the lawsuit is the first step toward removing citizenship checks and opening the door to foreigners voting. New York City has already authorized noncitizen voting in local elections.
While the stakes in the trial are high, media coverage has been mostly low key. As such, Jones’ cross-examination and the content of her past writing escaped much public notice.
At one point, the Morehouse professor was confronted by an August 2018 article in which she compared the 2018 election to 1955 and suggested Republicans would create internment camps for their enemies.
“Are you asserting here that Republicans in Congress are encouraging internment camps in 2018?” Miller asked Jones.
“Yes,” she answered.
“You are?” Miller followed in apparent disbelief.
Jones was also confronted by another article in which she said the Democratic Party efforts “to pay attention to black and minority voters will be critical to its ability to overthrow the president.”
Miller inquired what she meant, and Jones admitted she engaged in “a dramatic flourish.”
“This would not be a literal overthrow,” she clarified. “I’m talking about elections here.”
In one of the more consequential points of the testimony, Jones was questioned about her view of Republicans who voted for the renewal of the Voting Rights Act in 2006, arguing they were really trying to kill the landmark law.
Miller asked Jones if her argument amounted to “Republican support of reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, without amendment, was essentially a ruse in furtherance of the end goal to overturn the Voting Rights Act through the courts, right?”
“Yes,” she answered.
But Miller also inquired why Jones, in her expert report and earlier writings, also criticized Republicans who tried to amend the law and voted against it when the amendments failed, suggesting Jones was so biased that there wasn’t any scenario in which Republicans could be viewed favorably under the professor’s analysis.
“Dr. Jones, I want to make sure I understand your testimony here,” Miller summarized. “So voting yes means essentially a no vote, right?”
“Yes,” Jones answered.
“Seeking to amend the bill is a similar contention; seeking to kill it, right?” Miller inquired.
“It is,” the professor answered.
“And voting no is also a problem, right?”
“It is,” Jones affirmed.
“Is there any option for a Republican legislator that you would not take issue with?” he asked.
“Based upon the history of reauthorizations of the Voting Rights Act, no, not really,” she acknowledged.
Miller also caught the judge’s attention by getting Jones to acknowledge she believed current Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp was a “voter suppression advocate.” He then confronted the expert with the record of voting growth on Kemp’s watch as secretary of state and then governor.
“Would it surprise you to know that between 2016 and 2020 Black voter registration has increased 130 percent?” Miller asked.
“It would not surprise me,” she answered.