Unlike Virginia, where new laws expanded voting rights, Georgia shows how it can go bad.
Last Thursday, Georgia’s governor Brian Kemp signed a sweeping anti-voting bill. Among other restrictions, that made it a crime to give food or water to people in line to vote. The bill also restricts ballot drop boxes, imposes new ID requirements for mail-in ballots, and curtails early voting for runoff elections.
Just as concerning, the bill ensures the State Election Board becomes Republican majority. It gives the board the power to suspend local election officials and replace them with people of their own choosing.
While Georgia’s Republican state legislature claims this is to protect election integrity, the facts prove otherwise. Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State made clear there was no voter or election fraud in the previous Georgia elections that would have had any impact on election outcomes.
In fact he thoroughly debunked every conspiracy theory of even incidental voting inaccuracy or fraud. Unsurprisingly, since 1997 Georgia has had only 20 cases of voter fraud. There’s only been one instance where the fraud changed the election outcome. That one instance was between two GOP candidates in 2018. So, GOP on GOP fraud didn’t motivate the GOP legislature to change the law—Democrats winning fair & square did. It was never about election security.
Anti-Voting Law Causes Problems
These anti-voting laws particularly target Black voters, who enjoyed record turnouts during the last presidential and US Senate runoff elections. Due to voter suppression, Black people have to wait on average twice as long as white people to vote. Now imagine having to wait twice as long in the heat without water?
Combined with stricter absentee ballot voting, reduced ballot drop boxes, and shorter early voting windows, Georgia’s new law is de facto Jim Crow racism designed to harm & prevent Black people from voting.
And Georgia legislature isn’t alone in passing this modern day Jim Crow legislation. Nationwide the GOP has introduced 253 bills across 43 states to suppress the Black and brown vote. Here’s the truth. When you lose an election and your first reaction is to prevent people from voting in the next election, you don’t believe in democracy, you believe in dictatorship.
How Do We Fix It?
So what’s the solution?
We need a comprehensive rebuke to voter restriction, and the House passed HR1 does exactly that. HR1 protects American democracy by investing in election security, expanding voting rights and voting access, increasing election transparency, and purges dark money from politics.
The horrifying truth of Georgia’s Jim Crow anti-voting law is the only thing preventing it from being repealed is a Jim Crow Senate filibuster. This is what we mean by institutionalized racism. To achieve justice we must dismantle this entire racist apparatus of oppression.
The public narrative must also change. Media must stop using the GOP framing to initiatives like HR1 or DC statehood as a “Democratic power grab.” Instead, the media should use the correct framing of “GOP fear of losing minority rule.” It is silly to criticize Democrats’ efforts to expand representative government. Condemn the GOP efforts to restrict it.
Active, Engaged and Involved
Finally, the American people must continue to stay active, engaged, and involved in each and every election. Our nation was founded on the principle that government serves the will of the people—not a monarch, dictator, or despot—the people. But we failed to live up to this standard when the Founders decided that only land owning white Protestant men could vote.
So, throughout our nation’s history we’ve become a “more perfect union” by expanding access to the ballot box. Americans fought in wars, marched in streets, and litigated in courts to get the right to vote. That journey is ongoing.
As the GOP introduces 253 bills across 43 states to limit voting, as it opposes HR1 to limit voting, as it rejects DC statehood to limit voting—we must peacefully but firmly reject this anti-democratic narrative.
Our Constitution says We the People. Any politician afraid of hearing the will of the people either doesn’t understand our Constitution, or doesn’t want to. Either way, anyone attempting to restrict the vote of U.S. citizens has no place in public office and must be voted out. Period.
Qasim Rashid is a Pakistani-American human rights lawyer and Truman National Security Project Fellow. Follow him on Twitter @QasimRashid.