Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a GOP-backed bill into law Friday (March 26) that will impact millions of the state’s residents during election season.
The Republican bill SB-202 restricts Georgians from voting by mail and the oversight of legislative elections. Representative Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) told 11Alive the huge influx of absentee ballots during the 2020 Primary Election prompted the overhaul.
The signing of the bill comes just a few months after most Georgians voted for President Joe Biden in the 2020 general election, turning the state blue for the first time since 1993. President Biden criticized the new law, calling it “Jim Crow in the 21st Century” and “an atrocity,” according to CNN. The bill also received criticism from Democratic Georgia politicians like Stacey Abrams and Senator Jon Ossoff. Abrams tweeted “in 11 years, I’ve never witnessed a massive bill approved at such speed and signed in such desperation.”
#SB202 suppresses voters, criminalizes compassion & seizes election authority from local + state officials. In 11 years, I never witnessed a massive bill approved at such speed and signed in such desperation. This wasn’t efficiency or principle. This is cowardice. #gapol— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) March 25, 2021
Kemp responded to his critics, tweeting “It is obvious that neither President Biden nor his handlers have actually read SB 202, which I signed into law yesterday.”
Georgia State Patrol troopers arrested one Georgia politician, State Rep. Park Cannon, after she knocked on Kemp’s office door while he was delivering remarks during a presser about the bill’s passage. According to WSB-TV, troopers removed Cannon from the Capitol and she was taken to the Fulton County jail. Police charged her with obstruction of law enforcement and preventing or disrupting General Assembly sessions or other meetings of members.
The claim: Will Georgians have a hard time casting their vote in future elections due to the new law? Is this new bill a form of voter suppression?
Our rating: True. Let’s review what’s actually in the bill compared to before. Kemp tweeted that with the new bill, there’s now:
· Required voter I.D. for all absentee ballots.
· Increased oversight of local election boards, which fail to follow state election law.
· Quicker, more accurate results.
· Secured drop boxes around the clock.
The bill also stripped the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office of some of its roles in elections. The law, according to WSB-TV, gives the state election board added power to take over any county election office for underperforming. It also now gives the general assembly more say over the state election board. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger supported the law.
The law, according to WSB-TV and The Hill, also reduces the timeframe runoff elections are held, including the amount of weeks of early voting in runoffs from nine weeks to four, and it bans the handing out of food and water to people standing in line to vote within 150 feet of a polling place. During the 2020 general election, Georgians waited up to eight hours to cast their votes during the early voting period.
It also limits the use of ballot drop boxes, according to The Hill. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgia allowed the use of drop boxes. Under the new law, drop boxes will have to be at early-voting locations and are only accessibly when those locations are open. Those same drop boxes will also no longer be available to use in the last four days of an election.
The new deadline for Georgia absentee ballots is now 11 days before an election instead of four, according to The Hill. Georgians will also possibly have the option to vote on two Sundays when voting based on the county.
This follows Former President Donald Trump’s failed attempts to produce evidence of voter fraud during the 2020 general election. The passing of Georgia’s new law also comes after Trump pressured Secretary of State Raffensperger with “finding votes in his favor” in a phone call to his office.
Georgians will face these new rules as the 2022 midterm elections approach, and it’s not the only state to have introduce changes to voting rights. In the past five months since the election, GOP legislators have introduced at least 253 bills targeting various voting rights.
This new law also comes after the January 2021 runoffs election involving two of Georgia’s now-Senators Raphael Warnock, the state’s first Black senator, and Jon Ossoff, the state’s first Jewish senator. The results from both the 2020 general election and the 2021 runoffs election are mostly due to the work of Stacey Abrams and other Black grassroots organizers who mobilized many of Georgia’s Black voters by leading voter registration and education campaigns, publicizing deadlines for absentee ballots, and built coalitions.
Before Kemp’s new law passed, Black Georgians already faced uphill battles with casting votes. Voter suppression has been apparent since the 15th Amendment, according to PBS Newshour, gave Black men the right to vote in 1870. After the Civil War, the Black population rose across southern states, which impacted politics greatly. More than 1,400 African-Americans were elected to local, state and federal office during Reconstruction era.
Back then, the Republican party was more liberal than Democrats, so that’s the direction a lot of Black Americans went in. But, southern Democrats, according to PBS Newshour, fought back using violence and legislation. Black candidates were threatened, voters were attacked, and Black leaders were pushed out of office by white paramilitary groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the White Leagues. As a result, white Democrats established single-party control in the south and instituted a poll tax, which made voting expensive for former slaves. “White primaries” didn’t allow Black people to choose candidates in primary elections, which caused the number of Black men voting in Louisiana to fall from 130,000 to 1,342 between 1896 and 1904.
In recent years, voter suppression in Georgia has been much more blatant. Civil rights groups sued Gov. Kemp for suppressing Black votes during the 2018 gubernatorial election after an investigation by the Associated Press revealed a month before the midterm election that his office didn’t approved more than 50,000 voter registrations. African-Americans filed most of them.
Kemp was the-then secretary of state, who oversaw his own election, defeating governor hopeful Abrams. According to PBS Newshour, Kemp said his actions complied with a 2017 state law that required voter registration information to exactly match with a voter’s data from the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles or Social Security Administration. The civil rights groups said the law affects Black and Latino voters disproportionately.
Following the criticism and fallout from the new law Kemp passed last Friday, Abrams’ voting rights group, the New Georgia Project, and two others have sued the state of Georgia, citing violation of the Voting Rights Act. Democrats in Georgia are still trying to move forward with the For the People Act, which would create national voting standards, according to Forbes, that could undue provisions with the new Georgia law.
Georgia passes far-reaching voting measure – The Hill
Stacey Abram’s success in Georgia builds on generations of Black women’s organizing – The Washington Post