Stacey Abrams’ Passion for Voting Began with Her Preacher Parents

Former gubernatorial candidate and former state Rep. Stacey Abrams speaks to the congregation at Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma , Alabama, on March 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)

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(RNS) — Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia House minority leader who lost a razor-thin race for governor in 2018, voted on Thursday (Oct. 15), driving her ballot to a local drop box.

Jeanine Abrams McLean, a former biologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who now helps her sister run the census advocacy group Fair Count, also took advantage of Georgia’s early voting, wearing her “Come to Your Census” T-shirt to her polling place in Tucker.

In an interview with Religion News Service, Stacey Abrams called it a coincidence that the siblings had cast their votes on the same day. The family’s pastor, the Rev. Ralph Thompson, said voting is ingrained in the Abramses. “The family is just a tight-knit cadre of people who understand that it is incumbent upon them to vote and to make a difference,” he said.

Thompson, whose predominantly Black Columbia Drive United Methodist Church in Decatur, Georgia, has a sign outside that says “Vote Early,” said the entire family has long viewed voting as “a sacred civil duty.”

When Abrams, 46, threw herself into her twin causes of protecting the right to vote and being counted in the census, most news stories attributed her efforts to her loss in the gubernatorial election by 50,000 votes to Brian Kemp, the state’s top elections official at the time.

Abrams, charging that Kemp suppressed votes, announced the formation of her voter access organization, Fair Fight, in her concession speech, along with her intention to sue Kemp for running what she alleged was an unfair election. (The suit is ongoing.)

But Abrams also connects voter protection and other civic activism to her family’s faith.

“My faith is central to the work that I do, in that I not only hold Christian values, but my faith tradition as a Methodist tells me that the most profound demonstration of our faith is service,” said Abrams.

Abrams and her siblings were raised by two United Methodist clergy, the Rev. Robert Abrams and the Rev. Carolyn Abrams, both now retired. Their parents trained them early in service, bringing them to work at soup kitchens and to boycott a local Shell gas station to protest its corporate owner’s connections to apartheid-era South Africa. McLean was an acolyte, or altar server, and Stacey Abrams said she “did double duty” as an usher and a choir member in the small church her family attended at the time.

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