Georgia GOP rams through new voter suppression law
Guess not much has changed about trying to stop Black people from voting, especially in Georgia.
A draconian voter suppression law was jammed through the Georgia Legislature on a party line vote in just a few hours and signed that evening by Gov. Brian Kemp. The white-men-only signing took place behind closed doors, with a photographer there to capture the image that those in the room wanted to convey: White men are in charge. Women and Blacks need not apply.
State Rep. Park Cannon, pictured above in the photo on the right being led away by white state troopers, knocked on the door of the closed room to witness these voting restrictions being signed into law. Georgia state troopers “instructed her to stop.” Instead, she was arrested.
“Cannon is facing a charge of obstructing law enforcement officers by use of threats or violence and she faces a second charge of disrupting general assembly sessions or other meetings of members,” said a story from NPR. Her arrest “prompted comparisons to civil rights and police brutality protests from this summer.” At 5 feet, 2 inches, Cannon was dwarfed by the troopers who were guarding Kemp’s door against interlopers — she’s hardly the threat they made her out to be.
The juxtaposition of the images of Cannon’s arrest in 2021 with the arrests at 1960s-era civil rights protests spread throughout social media faster than police dogs being unleashed on voting rights activists at those same protests. The original posting of the images was done by Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the governor’s race to Kemp in 2018 in the face of other Georgia voter suppression. Since then, she and the group she founded, Fair Fight Action, have led efforts nationwide to register voters and to build and engage a robust network of grassroots activists that works to strengthen democracy at all levels. The group has challenged voter suppression laws in multiple states, and its effort against this new Georgia law will be fought just as hard.
Here’s just a sampling of “features” of the new law, which Kemp and his Republican allies claimed were being done in the name of “election integrity”:
- Imposes new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots. This puts even more requirements on those hoping to vote absentee, like so many voters did in 2020, as they feared waiting in line to vote because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Limits early voting. Can’t give voters so many opportunities to vote; better to make them wait in line for hours.
- Empowers state officials to take over local elections boards. In other words, state Republicans can take charge before local officials certify vote totals if they don’t like the results; i.e., if Democrats win.
- Limits the use of ballot drop boxes. Despite the fact that such drop boxes have been used successfully and securely for decades by other states with no problems, Georgia Republicans just knew that something was amiss when they didn’t win.
- Establishes a hotline to report allegations of illegal voting and allows challenges to voter eligibility. Sure, that won’t cause any problems, especially when such “illegal” voting tends to favor Democratic candidates.
- Shortens the time counties have to certify election results. Why bother to count votes accurately when you can rush through the results you want, even if all of the votes haven’t been counted yet?
- Makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water. So forget about offering relief to Democratic and minority voters who often are forced to wait in line for hours on end because so many of their polling places have been eliminated.
“It’s like the Christmas tree of goodies for voter suppression,” Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan said on the Senate floor as lawmakers prepared to vote.
The “Election Integrity Act of 2021.” Talk about an oxymoron!
Kemp and his allies claim that the law was needed “to boost confidence in elections.” Well, sure. Donald Trump and his minions did all they could to spread the Big Lie that he really won, so that some — Republican — voters didn’t have faith in the election outcome. What better way to get back into the good graces of the Orange Menace ex-president than to make it harder for Democrats and minorities to vote?
At his March 25 news conference, President Biden blasted the new voter suppression efforts, using terms such as sick, un-American, and pernicious. “This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle,” he told reporters.
The Georgia voter suppression law already is being challenged in court by the Black Voters Matter Fund, the New Georgia Project, and Rise, Inc. The groups are being represented by voting rights lawyer Marc Elias, a nationally recognized authority and expert in campaign finance, voting rights, and redistricting. “Despite nationwide scrutiny of Georgia elections, which only confirmed the absence of any fraud, insecurity, or wrongdoing, Republican members of the General Assembly voted to pass sweeping omnibus legislation that is clearly intended to and will have the effect of making it harder for lawful Georgia voters to participate in the state’s elections,” Elias said in the lawsuit.
The late U.S. Rep. John Lewis died in 2020 after a long career in the U.S. House representing Georgia, often fighting for voting rights. The civil rights hero’s head was cracked open on the Edmund Pettus Bridge by Alabama state troopers in 1965 as he helped lead the march from Selma to Montgomery to fight for the right to vote.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Act is named for the voting rights activist. It would restore and strengthen parts of the U.S. Voting Rights Act of 1965, much of which was gutted by a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision. That law and H.R. 1, the For the People Act, would expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, limit partisan gerrymandering, and create new ethics rules for federal officeholders. Both measures have passed the U.S. House and face a tough road in the Senate unless the Senate changes its filibuster rules, specifically on bills that deal with voting rights.
Activists nationwide have their own strategy. They are promising to show up on early voting days and Election Day in Georgia in 2022, water bottles in hand, to challenge the law’s prohibition on delivering food and water to Black and Democratic voters waiting in line for hours just to cast a ballot.
As John Lewis would say: “It’s time for some good trouble.”