An effort is underway to restrict voting across the United States, but there are few places where that assault is clearer and more urgent than in Georgia. I know we’ve talked about Georgia before, but this week I want to delve into exactly what Georgia lawmakers are proposing to make it difficult to vote right now and why it matters.
On Monday, the Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill, HB531, that would implement radical changes in the state voting system. Among other measures, the bill:
Require voters to provide identifying information with both their absentee ballot request and the ballot itself.
Limit election officials to offering just two early voting days on weekends, one of which must be on a Saturday.
Restrict early voting from 9 a.m. M. at 5:00 p.m., with an option for election officials to extend the hours from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Give voters less time to request an absentee ballot.
Shorten the period for a second electoral round from nine to four weeks.
In the state senate, there are also proposals to ditch the state policy of automatically registering voters and allowing voters to cast their vote by mail only if they are 65 or older or have a valid excuse. That would eliminate the so-called unexcused absentee voting system of Georgia Republicans – yes, Georgia Republicans, enacted in 2005.
While the proposals in states across the country are deeply alarming, the efforts in Georgia matter significantly for a few reasons:
They come after an election in which there were record participation in the state, including surges among black and other minority voters, which helped Democrats generate jaw-dropping surprises.
They evoke that of Georgia well documented and ugly history of passing laws designed to make it difficult for blacks to vote
“They are very draconian by nature,” said Aunna Dennis, executive director of the Georgia chapter of Common Cause, a government watchdog organization. “What we are seeing is a reaction to a problem that literally does not exist here in Georgia. These bills capture all of that. These are simplifying and turning back the hands of time. “
Some measures in the bill, such as provisions restricting early voting, appear to be a thinly veiled effort to restrict access to the ballot for minority voters. In the 2020 election, 8.6% of early white voters cast their ballots on weekends, compared with 13.1% of Asian Americans and 11.8% of black voters. according to an analysis by the New Data Center.
It is also well known that many black churches host “Souls to the Polls” events on Sundays to encourage parishioners to come out and vote. Under the new law, election officials could choose not to offer any Sunday voting.
“In Georgia, because we had to fight so hard to get the right to vote here, the vote is very celebrated. It is very much a community event, ”Dennis said. “We use those weekend times to do that. For those cuts to happen so dramatically, that can also diminish people’s willingness to want to be part of this election because they will see that this is a lot of obstacles. “
During the debate in the Georgia house this week, Republicans justified the new restrictions by saying there should be uniformity in early voting hours. But Democrats pointed out that the reasoning didn’t make sense because counties could still offer different weekend days.
There is also concern about the requirement that voters provide identifying information both when requesting to vote by mail and when casting their ballot. Some voters, especially those who are poor, disabled, or elderly, may not have access to a Georgia driver’s license or may submit a photocopy of another form of identification. On the ballot, Georgia voters who lack acceptable identification should put the last four digits of their social security number, raising concern that voters will be forced to put sensitive personal information at risk.
Lastly, there is great concern about the new limits on ballot drop boxes, which voters relied on due to concerns about mail delays. While local election officials could offer 24/7 access to mailboxes In 2020, the new bill would only allow officials to place mailboxes at early voting locations and allow access to them during early voting hours. It would not allow the ballot boxes to be open on Election Day and would only allow one ballot box for every 100,000 voters.
Janine Eveler, director of elections for Cobb County, said her county spent a lot of money buying boxes and installing surveillance cameras last year. She was happy that the state at least allowed mailboxes to continue, but questioned the need for some of the new restrictions.
“Placing the boxes inside the early voting locations will disrupt the flow of in-person voters in the poll, so I would prefer that they be located outside the polls if they have to be associated with early voting locations,” he wrote in an email. . “I don’t understand why they want to limit the number of mailboxes to 1: 100,000 voters.”
The proposals, and many smaller bills, are still moving through the legislature and it is not yet entirely clear which ones will ultimately pass. Dennis added that the bills sent a disturbing message to voters who turned out in unprecedented numbers last year.
“What do we say to those voters? Are we telling you that your energy, your enthusiasm and the success of the elections meant nothing? “, He said.
Also worth seeing …
The US House passed HR1, which contains the most radical voting reforms in decades. As Republicans move quickly to enact new voting restrictions in the US, Democrats face mounting pressure in the US Senate to get rid of obstructionism, which requires the approval of 60 senators to move forward. in legislation, to enact reforms.
The activists are escalate a campaign to pressure big corporations like Coca-Cola, Delta and UPS to end their support for lawmakers imposing voting restrictions in Georgia.
The Iowa Legislature sent an invoice to the governor who would reduce early voting from 29 days to 20 and close the polls an hour earlier. Gov. Kim Reynolds is expected to sign the measure
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism