As Georgia Republican lawmakers continue to advance legislation that would remake the state’s voting laws, opponents are pushing back – both inside and outside the Capitol.
Despite barricades surrounding the state Capitol building, dozens of protesters got as close as they could Thursday morning to wave signs, chant and make speeches. Inside, members of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus echoed the sentiments from outside: Laws proposed by Republicans are targeting minority voters.
“ID requirements, witness signatures, drop box bans, cuts to voting hours — these things add up,” said Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler.
She says the dozens of voting bills proposed by Republican legislators this session are, in her words, “tied to a racist past.”
“I think I’m a pretty good judge of when the people in power are trying to maintain the power, through laws that are born of prejudice and fear,” said Butler.
“If you don’t want to be associated with the Jim Crow South,” Butler said, “stop leading the charge to take us back there.”
Republican lawmakers say the changes are needed to restore Georgians’ confidence in elections, despite no credible evidence of significant voter fraud.
Democrats say it was their get-out-the-vote effort that led to wins for their candidates in the presidential race and two U.S Senate runoffs that swung the balance of power in Washington, D.C.
“Thousands of volunteers called, texted, emailed, canvassed, rallied and marched to educate and empower Georgians to register and vote,” said Sen. Tonya Anderson, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus. “We stand united in opposition to any policy that seeks to undermine our hard-fought voting rights.”
The Georgia Senate has already passed some voting bills, including the requirement that voters submit identification to request an absentee ballot and that counties must begin processing mail-in votes before Election Day, something they did in the 2020 election cycle under emergency rules from the State Election Board.
Republicans in both chambers have filed a flurry of voting-related bills this session. It was a week ago when Republican. Rep. Barry Fleming introduced an omnibus election bill a little over an hour prior to a hearing before the House Special Committee on Election Integrity.
“We’re opposed to [House Bill] 531 because it was drafted in the back rooms of the Republican Party to expressly disenfranchise and discourage people who do not agree with them,” said House Minority Leader James Beverly.
He also noted that Republicans are trying to pass bills that would keep organizations from passing out water and snacks to voters waiting in line and would also keep counties from using private businesses to host early voting sites, as is outlined in Senate Bill 241.
“They further tried to silence the voices of Georgians and Georgia businesses by attacking the amazing public-private partnership that opened access to the ballot boxes,” said Beverly.
Partly because of the pandemic, facilities like State Farm Arena, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Ponce City Market and the High Museum of Art were all used for voting in Fulton County in 2020.
“Over 40,000 people voted at State Farm Arena alone in the 2020 general election,” said the Rev. James Woodall, president of the Georgia NAACP chapter. “One of those voters was myself, and now I would have to stand in a long line to vote.”