On October 15, 2012, Olivia Pearson helped Diewanna Robinson understand how to use an electronic voting machine at an early voting location in Douglas, Georgia. It wasn’t out of character for her. Helping community members get engaged in civic life is something that Pearson has done for years as a City Commissioner in Douglas. She is outspoken and assertive, and that seems to be the motivation for a witch hunt that could land her in prison.
Pearson stood trial on felony charges of voter fraud and swearing falsely on March 28, 2017. The charges stem from the October 2012 incident where she helped Robinson understand how to use that electronic voting machine. Pearson was told by poll workers that if she was assisting voters she would need to sign the state-approved form; she complied. The two women didn’t know each other. Ms. Robinson asked for help and Ms. Pearson was there. However, in Georgia, people are only allowed to assist someone in voting if the voter is illiterate or mentally disabled.
The jury could not agree on a verdict and a mistrial was granted. However, the District Attorney stated that the case is not over, so it appears that Ms. Pearson will have to face another trial.
Even without a verdict, the trial had a strong impact on community members. “People were scared,” said Dr. Fred McBride, a researcher for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice who attended the trial. “Folk were uncertain about what this meant for Ms. Pearson, but also what it meant for them. People were expressing concerns about going to vote or helping others vote.”
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice helped Pearson mount a defense, but she is doing more than just defending herself. She is defending the rights of others. She is pushing back against the obvious effort to intimidate community members from voting and helping others vote.
It’s easy to understand how our democracy works best when everyone participates. The trial of Ms. Pearson is a threat to that concept. The prosecution painted Pearson as angry, difficult, belligerent, and in closing described her as a corrupt politician who thinks she is above the law. “This witch hunt is about scaring people from exercising their constitutional right to vote,” said McBride. “We should be looking for ways to get more people involved and engaged in the democratic process, not less. We cannot let these scare tactics keep people from voting.”
A new trial date for Olivia Pearson has not yet been scheduled.
Click here for a local news story about the trial written by Bradley Bennett for DouglasNow.com: http://douglasnow.com/index.php/news/item/4019-judge-declares-mistrial-on-pearson-case-ada-says-prosecution-is-still-active