Governor Brian Kemp
Governor Brian Kemp hosts a press conference on COVID-19 on March 3rd at the Georgia state capitol in Atlanta, Georgia. 03 Mar 2021 (Nathan Posner/Shutterstock)

Georgia Governor Approves Reform Law Making It Harder for People of Color to Vote; Democrat Congresswoman Arrested While Protesting the Bill

Incensed that his home state has gone blue and given wins in recent elections to President Biden and two state senators, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has signed one of the most controversial voting restriction measures in recent U.S. history. The sole goal of the bill? To disenfranchise and make it harder for young people, people of color and Democrats, in general, to vote in future elections — an attempt to flip his state red again the next time voters go to the polls.

Jane C. Timm of NBC News has reported that the 95-page bill that Kemp signed on March 25 adds numerous controversial and egregiously biased changes to the state election process.

“It will dramatically shorten runoff elections from nine weeks to less than a month and cut the early voting period required for runoff elections from three weeks to one week,” Timm reported. “The law [also] allows the Legislature to appoint the chair of the State Election Board; previously, the board was chaired by the secretary of state. The bill also allows that State Election Board to take over county election administration.”

The changes and new restrictions don’t end there either.

According to Timm, “The [new] law will require mail-in voters to include their driver’s license numbers or other documentation to verify their identities, instead of using signature verification. Drop boxes can [now] be located only inside election offices and early voting locations, curbing their usefulness. [The bill] also shortens the window to request absentee ballots.”

It even goes so far as to take away the ability of voting advocates to bring water, pizza, donuts or other snacks to voters who are waiting in line to cast their ballot — a process that can sometimes take hours in some Georgia precincts. 

“The bill standardizes early voting across the state, which will likely lead to expanded early voting in many counties,” Timm said. “But it standardizes the hours for most early voting to 9 to 5 p.m., which is likely to limit the hours in larger counties like Fulton County, which has previously offered early voting until 7 p.m.”

Kemp called the reforms “common sense” and said he thought they would improve the quality of elections in the state significantly. In contrast, when asked about the reforms Kemp was considering, President Biden said they were “sick” and “un-American,” and questioned how it could help improve voting. “Deciding in some states that you cannot bring water to people standing in line waiting to vote; deciding that you’re going to end voting at 5 when working people are just getting off work; deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances. It’s all designed [to disenfranchise voters],” he said in a press conference on March 25.

In a statement, Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight Action, called the Georgia election reform bill “nothing less than Jim Crow 2.0.”

“Georgia Republicans’ shameful efforts to suppress the vote and seize electoral power through SB 202 demonstrate how critical the fight for voting rights remains,” Abrams said. “Every business, political, and civic leader must stand up and make their opposition to these desperate anti-democratic laws clear. At a time when Georgia ranks as the worst state for COVID[-19] vaccination rates, Georgia Republicans instead are singularly focused on reviving Georgia’s dark past of racist voting laws. And as the FBI continue to round up seditionists who spilled blood to defend a lie about our elections, Republican state leaders willfully undermine democracy by giving themselves authority to overturn results they do not like. Now, more than ever, Americans must demand federal action to protect voting rights as we continue to fight against these blatantly unconstitutional efforts.”

As Kemp was approving the legislation, Rep. Park Cannon of Georgia’s 58th District (a Democrat and vocal supporter of voter rights who works in the statehouse) knocked on the Governor’s door to ask for increased transparency in his approval process, attempting to slow the bill’s approval down, which had been rushed through committees by conservative state politicians. Cannon was immediately apprehended by police. Video circulating on social media showed troopers grabbing Cannon by the arms, handcuffing her and violently dragging her down the Georgia State Capitol’s hall as she repeatedly asked what she had done. 

 

According to Barbara Rodriguez of The 19th, the Black lawmaker was placed into the back of a Georgia State Capitol patrol car and later arrested. (She has since been released.).

Following the incident, Park tweeted: “Who — and what — are they protecting when they work this hard to suppress our vote? I am grateful that my pastor [Reverend Raphael Warnock] & community held witness and prayed for me, my family & our state. Electing [Jon Ossoff] and [Warnock] to the Senate united Georgia in hope and gave us the courage to stand up against the hate we face.”

“And make no mistake, when I say hate, I mean white supremacy,” she added. “The closed-door signing of #SB202 and the senseless murder of #AAPI Georgians are both products of a white supremacist system. Different tactics, same goal: fear and control.

We will not live in fear and we will not be controlled. We have a right to our future and a right to our freedom. We will come together and continue fighting white supremacy in all its forms.”

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.

 

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