2023 Digital Video Storytelling, Medium Form, Small/Medium Newsroom finalist

Meet the Woman Fighting for the Rights of Voters Who Can’t Read

About the Project

For decades, conservative politicians have passed laws to make it harder for voters who struggle to read to cast a ballot and discourage anyone trying to help them. Olivia Coley-Pearson knows this better than most.

For taking on one of America’s oldest forms of voter suppression, she got threats, a trip to jail and a reminder of the nation’s long legacy of weaponizing literacy. She has been criminally charged twice in the past decade for her attempts to help people navigate their ballots; she has never been found guilty of any wrongdoing. Now 60, she serves as a city commissioner in Douglas, the majority-Black seat of Coffee County, where a third of the population struggles to read.

Across the country, from California to Georgia, people like Olivia Coley-Pearson work through stigma and increased restrictions as they help people who struggle to read exercise their right to vote.

ProPublica documented her work through Georgia’s primary elections to capture cinematically what it takes to ensure that voters who need help can get it. It also worked with bringing archival video to life through dynamic motion graphics.