Voting Rights Advocates And Abrams Call For Federal Oversight Of Georgia Elections

Former Georgia Democratic candidate for governor Stacey Abrams speaks to a panel of members of congress about voting in the state.

Johnny Kauffman / WABE

Advocates for increasing voting access in Georgia told members of Congress on Tuesday that the state’s elections should be placed under federal oversight through the Voting Rights Act.

Georgia was one of nine states with a history of discrimination in voting where changes to voting laws or administration were required to be pre-cleared by the U.S Department of Justice. But the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that this section of the Voting Rights Act, Section 5, cannot be enforced until Congress finds a new way to determine which jurisdictions require oversight.

Democrats on the U.S. House Committee on Administration, led by Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, plan to hold hearings in North Dakota, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and Alabama, with the goal of making a case to require pre-clearance in Georgia and other states.

“Racism is absolutely not over in Georgia, or in the South, and anyone who has eyes and ears will tell you that,” Sean Young, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia, told the committee on Tuesday. “We desperately need pre-clearance in the South.”

Young, other advocates, and former Democratic candidate for governor Stacey Abrams laid out to the committee voting issues that came up during the 2018 midterms in Georgia, like voter purges, polling place closures, registration issues, absentee ballot rejections, and more.

“Incompetence and malfeasance operate in tandem,” said Abrams. “The sheer complexity of the state’s voting apparatus smooths voter suppression into a nearly seamless system that targets voter registration, ballot access and ballot counting.”

Republican lawmakers and officials did not attend the hearing.

“I am committed to protecting the outcomes of free and fair elections,” said Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a statement. “I will stand firm against any federal takeover of our voting rights.”

Changes to the Voting Rights Act would require Republican support in the U.S. Senate, but that is unlikely.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has staunchly opposed a Democratic election and ethics reform measure, and it’s unlikely to even get a vote in the chamber he oversees.