Log In

Reset Password

The harrowing aftermath of counting votes

First Prev 1 2 Next Last
Former Georgia election worker Wandrea ArShaye "Shaye" Moss, foreground, is seen along with her mother, Ruby Freeman, in red dress, as the House January 6 select committee holds its fourth public hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday (Photograph by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol has solicited the testimony of a host of men and women who held esteemed titles: attorney-general, senior adviser to the President of the United States, federal judge, secretary of state. And they all described, often in emotional terms, how they, in some way, spoke truth to power. They did not believe former president Donald Trump's fiction about a stolen election. They refused his entreaties to find non-existent votes and would not legitimise conjured up electors. They ignored Trump’s threats.

Robin Givhan is senior critic-at-large writing about politics, race and the arts. A 2006 Pulitzer Prize winner for criticism, Givhan has also worked at Newsweek/Daily Beast, Vogue magazine and the Detroit Free Press

On Tuesday afternoon, a trio of Republican men from Georgia and Arizona told their stories of defiance and certitude at the committee’s fourth public hearing: Brad Raffensberger, Gabriel Sterling and Russell “Rusty” Bowers. They were men of some clout and privilege in politics, men whose party affiliation was made plain as further proof of their courage. They were men who were accustomed to being heard and even obeyed. Men for whom the system was built.

“The system held, but barely,” said representative Adam B. Schiff, a Democrat from California.

And yet, democracy really functions at all only because of folks such as Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss. She held a far less impressive title: employee. Her testimony held the weight of a country’s shame and sorrow.

Moss was an election worker for more than a decade, and during her time at the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections in Georgia, from 2017 to 2022, she handled voter applications and absentee-ballot requests. She also helped process ballots after the 2020 election. She chose her job not because it afforded her prestige or wealth, but because it was steeped in meaning.

“I’ve always been told by my grandmother how important it is to vote and how people before me, a lot of people, older people in my family, did not have that right. So what I loved the most about my job were the older voters,” testified Moss, who is Black. “Older voters like to call; they like to talk to you; they like to get my card; they like to know that every election, I’m here. Even college students, a lot of parents trusted me to make sure their child does not have to drive home — they’ll get an absentee ballot. They can vote. I really found pleasure in that.”

Moss added: “They want a new precinct card; they don’t have copy machine or a computer or all of that, I could put it in the mail for them. I was excited always about sending out all the absentee ballots for the elderly or disabled people. I even remember driving to a hospital to give someone her absentee application.

“That's what I love the most.”

And so, the system chugged along. Because of people like Moss.

Until Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and a chorus of enablers tried to break the system by destroying her, just one of an assortment of schemes.

They falsely accused Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, who also helped to process ballots, of being election hustlers — of being a cabal of two who tainted Georgia’s election results. The women were stalked and threatened on social media and in real life. The FBI told Freeman she needed to leave her home, for safety. Vigilantes on the hunt for the two election workers thronged to Moss’s grandmother’s home with plans to make a citizen’s arrest. The mother and daughter received messages filled with rage and hate and racism. The Trump mob, in all its populist hubris, went after these women who live at a far distance from the deep state, the Washington swamp and the coastal elite.

Moss walked into the crowded hearing room with her mother. Freeman took a seat in the front row of spectators, and her daughter settled in at the witness table, but not before glancing back to maker sure her mother was OK — that her mother was there. Freeman wore red; Moss was dressed in black. Moss looked up at the committee. She took several deep breaths. She bit her lips. She looked slightly pained. Her face, her body language reminded the audience that this is not easy. This is not normal.

Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, the Democrat from Mississippi, greeted Moss and asked, “Would you like to introduce your mama?” It was a genial offer. Hospitable even. Moss gestured to her mother, and Freeman smiled and waved at the chairman. In that moment, the starched formality of the hearing softened. The testimony that was to come was not about electors and scanners and far-fetched lawsuits. It was not a referendum on politicians and oaths of office. It was about this daughter and her mama.

The committee has spoken at length about the threat to democracy posed by Trump and his mob. And that is undeniable even if this “clear and present” danger at times feels more like an unnerving intellectual exercise. Moss expressed the damage in sad and human terms. She raised her right hand and agreed to tell the truth. Her nails were all gussied up with a stiletto manicure in cheerful shades of orange and yellow. A charm bracelet dangled from her wrist. She was not staid federal Washington. She was colourful and personable. She was the human face of an election bureaucracy. A true believer in civic duty. A Black woman instilled with the value of the vote.

Moss testified about what January 6 — and all that led up to it and all that followed it — cost her.

“It's turned my life upside down. I no longer give out my business card,” she said. “I don’t want anyone knowing my name. I don’t want to go anywhere with my mom because she might yell my name out over the grocery aisle or something. I don’t go to the grocery store at all. I haven’t been anywhere at all. I gained about 60 pounds. I just don’t do anything any more; I don’t want to go anywhere. I second-guess everything I do.

“It’s affected my life in a major way. In every way. All because of lies.”

Moss is no longer an election worker. “I want to say how very sorry I think we all are for what you’ve gone through. And tragically, you’re not alone,” Schiff said. “Other election workers around the country have also been the subject of lies and threats.”

She is damaged. The system is broken.

Robin Givhan is senior critic-at-large writing about politics, race and the arts. A 2006 Pulitzer Prize winner for criticism, Givhan has also worked at Newsweek/Daily Beast, Vogue magazine and the Detroit Free Press

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published June 23, 2022 at 7:59 am (Updated June 22, 2022 at 7:07 pm)

The harrowing aftermath of counting votes

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon