Stacey Abrams was catapulted into the national spotlight in 2018, when the former state representative came within 54,000 votes of winning the Georgia governor’s race, in an election marred by extensive reports of voter suppression. But despite the wave of calls urging her to parlay that political stardom into a presidential (or Senate) bid, Abrams will instead focus on fighting voter suppression through a new initiative called Fair Fight 2020, which, as she put it, aims to “make certain that no one has to go through in 2020 what we went through in 2018.”
But Abrams didn’t entirely close the door on seeking elected office: On Wednesday, she told The New York Times that she was still open to being “considered by any nominee” for the vice-president slot—even though earlier in the year she had shot down the suggestion of playing second fiddle to former Vice President Joe Biden. As Democrats face the potential of another bout of voter suppression in 2020, having Abrams at the top of the ticket raises the possibility that voting rights will be elevated from something of an afterthought to a central issue on the campaign trail.
Abrams’s defeat in 2018 is a cautionary tale for Democrats: Voter suppression is a serious problem for the party, and it isn’t going away. In the election, Brian Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state and Abrams’s opponent in the race, closed several polling stations in predominantly black areas and put 53,000 voter-registration applications on hold, moves that potentially stifled turnout among supporters of Abrams. “I think what her experience this past year revealed was, regardless of how dynamic of a candidate you are, how much mobilization that you implement—particularly to mobilize voters who may not vote regularly and could not or have not voted at all—the effort to suppress the vote was, in her case, insurmountable,” says Pearl Dowe, a professor of political science and African American studies at Emory University. “I think it would be a mistake for any presidential candidate not to think about it.”