ATLANTA – After record turnouts turned Georgia blue for the first time in decades, the Republicans who control the state’s legislature are rapidly implementing a series of new restrictions on access to elections in one of the biggest voting rights challenges in a major battlefield state represents the 2020 election.
Two bills, one by parliament on Monday and one that could be passed by the Senate this week, aim to change the fundamental elements of the vote in Georgia that backed President Biden in November and two Democratic senators in January – some narrow wins on the range of voting options in the state.
Republican legislation would undermine the pillars of electoral access by ending automatic voter registration, banning postal ballot drop boxes, and eliminating the widespread availability of postal votes. The bills would restrict early voting on weekends and curtail the long-standing civic tradition of “Souls to the Polls,” in which black voters cast ballots on the Sunday after the service.
Taken together, the new barriers would have an overwhelming impact on black voters, who make up around a third of the state’s population and vote mostly democratically.
Black voters were an important force in having democratic success in the recent elections around 88 percent Vote for Mr Biden and more than 90 percent According to Exit polls, they voted for Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the January runoff elections.
Democrats say Republicans are effectively reverting to one of the ugliest tactics in the state’s history – repressive laws aimed at disenfranchising voters.
“Instead of debating whether their ideology is failing, they rely instead on what has worked in the past,” said Stacey Abrams, the voting rights activist, referring to laws designed to suppress votes were intended. “Instead of winning new voters, you manipulate the system against their participation and steal the right to vote.”
The Georgia effort comes from former President Donald J. Trump continuing to publicly advocate the lie that he was stolen the election that has affected millions of Republican voters. It has also put further pressure on Republican lawmakers across the country to keep drafting new laws aimed at restricting voting rights under the motto “electoral integrity” to appease the former president and his loyal base.
New voting restrictions have already been passed in Iowa and several other states are planning similar efforts as the Supreme Court makes oral statements this week on yet another challenge to the voting law. Should the Supreme Court make changes to Section 2 of the law, which allows for retrospective appeals of voting restrictions that could disproportionately affect members of minority groups, Democrats and constituencies could be left without one of their main appeals tools.
Justice Elena KaganIn her poll on Tuesday, appeared to refer to Georgia’s proposed restrictions on Sunday’s voting.
“If a state has long voted two weeks early and the state then decides to abolish the Sunday election during those two weeks, leave everything else in place and black voters vote ten times more than white voters on Sunday. This system is alike open? “Asked Judge Kagan.
Georgia has been at the center of the electoral struggle for decades. Democrats and pressure groups oppose repeated efforts to disenfranchise black voters in the state.
As recently as 2018, Georgians were faced with hours of voting in many black-majority neighborhoods, and thousands of black voters were struck off the voting lists ahead of the elections. Now Democrats and constituencies are alarmed that Republicans are trying again to change state electoral laws ahead of the critical Senate and governor races in 2022.
While the bills are not finalized, they are expected to reach the desk of Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, at some point. Mr Kemp has not specifically endorsed either of the two bills, but said Tuesday morning he was in favor of efforts to “further secure the vote”.
“I support putting photo ID requirements on postal ballot papers and other items to ensure fair trial is followed,” Kemp told radio host Hugh Hewitt. He said his decision on the bills would depend on “what it is and what’s in it”.
Democrats who are not in power in the Statehouse despite having both seats in the United States Senate are relatively powerless in the legislative process to stop the bills, even though the courts have the option of contesting a final bill.
In an interview on Tuesday, Ms. Abrams, the former leader of the Democratic minority in the Georgia House of Representatives, described Monday’s vote in the House of Representatives as “a sign of fear” about Republicans’ failure to win the support of young and minority voters, two of whom fastest. growing sectors of the state electorate.
She added that the measure for the G.O.P. that a large percentage of rural white voters, a traditionally Republican bloc, could also be hampered by laws that make it difficult for citizens to post and vote by mail.
When asked about restrictions on Sunday’s voting, Ms. Abrams quoted as saying a study by the Center for New Data, a nonprofit group that found that black voters were more likely to vote on weekends than white voters in 107 of Georgia’s 159 counties. Overall, 11.8 percent of black voters voted over the weekend, compared with 8.6 percent of white voters, according to the study.
“We know a version of this law is likely to pass because Republicans in Georgia are facing an existential crisis,” said Ms. Abrams, portraying the party as short-sighted for refusing to address the factors that make up their traditional demographic Advantages have recently jeopardized elections.
One of the most pressing concerns of the Georgia Democrats is the possibility that the House, H.B. 531 could be changed in the Senate to include provisions ending automatic voter registration and an email voting system known as “no excuse” that allows voters to post absentee ballots if they so choose. These proposals were incorporated into a bill passed by a Senate committee last week.
The automatic registration system that registers voters when they apply for or renew a driver’s license was introduced in 2016 under then-Republican Governor Nathan Deal.
Georgian Foreign Secretary Brad Raffensperger, another Republican, has credited the system with dramatically increasing voter registration numbers, and Republicans have cited such numbers to crack down on charges brought by Ms. Abrams and others that Georgia Republicans are trying to suppress votes.
The absentee voting was approved by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2005 and was used by many voters during the pandemic. In December, Mr. Raffensperger endorsed the end of the non-excusing postal vote, saying it “opens the door to a potential illegal vote”.
Mr Raffensperger took this stance despite defending Georgia’s electoral system against Mr Trump’s allegations that the election had been somehow rigged; His refusal to support the former president’s unsubstantiated claims earned him the hostility of his allied Republicans of Trump and Georgia.
Raffensperger’s office on Tuesday did not respond to a request for comment on current legislative efforts in the legislature, including the House of Representatives bill that would remove the state secretary from his role as chairman of the state electoral committee.
Cody Hall, a spokesman for Mr Kemp, repeated one of his frequently used sentences, saying the governor wanted to make Georgia “easy to vote and difficult to cheat”.
Kasey Carpenter, a representative of the Republican state, whose district is a Conservative part of northwest Georgia, said the House of Representatives bill contained a number of common sense provisions that the Democrats would support if it weren’t for the intense partisan nature of the time. Changes to the mail-in procedures are particularly important as the number of people who have made this choice due to the restrictions of the pandemic has increased significantly.
“I think what you are seeing is a measured approach,” he said.
For example, Mr Carpenter said, the bill requires voters to include their driver’s license or state ID number on requests for a postal vote, and that photocopies are only sent in if the voter is using alternative forms of identification.
When a very restrictive bill lands on Mr Kemp’s desk, he faces a complicated dilemma.
On the one hand, the governor must show his Trump-loyal Republican base that he has heard and responded to their concerns about electoral integrity. This is especially important when Mr Trump, outraged that Mr Kemp did not take steps to overcome his electoral defeat in Georgia, carries out his threat to support a major opponent on Mr Kemp’s right flank.
On the flip side, if Ms. Abrams chooses to include Mr. Kemp in a rematch of her 2018 competition, she and her allies will likely re-use allegations of voter suppression as one of her most energetic and incessant lines of attack against Mr. Kemp.
With an electorate still teetering from two-month efforts to undermine Mr Trump’s election result and the numerous judicial proceedings against voting before and after the election, the Georgia bills quickly attracted national attention. More Than a Vote, a group founded by basketball superstar LeBron James, has vowed to raise awareness of the issue during the N.B.A. All-Star Game this weekend in Atlanta; his promise was reported first from the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Voting groups point out that the severe restrictions on early voting could also have a cascading effect: by limiting the number of hours available for personal voting, the bottlenecks that arise during high-volume periods and on election day would more likely to result in longer queues, like the queues that plagued the Georgian area code in June.
“You’re causing a line management problem,” said Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, a constituency. In elementary school, she said, “We saw people in line for over six hours. Imagine losing 108 hours of early voting time, Sunday voting, and access to Dropbox. How many of these people are there in line now? “
Isabella Grullón Paz contributed to the coverage.