Updated: Apr 14, 2021
Just weeks ago, Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed a new voting bill into law. It included more rigid regulations for voting procedures such as requiring more identification, limiting drop boxes, adding more restrictions to weekend voting and absentee voting, criminalizing the distribution of food/drinks at voting areas, and much more.
The rewrite of Georgia's election system comes on the heels of Trump's wave of baseless claims of voter fraud in Georgia, where Biden narrowly beat Trump by 11,779 votes. Thus, this whole bill stems from an unsubstantiated foundation of lies.
While Republicans argue that this law is a vital aspect of restoring confidence in Georgia's elections, Democrats say it will restrict voting access, especially for voters of color.
With over 4 million votes counted, Georgia set the all-time record for the number of votes by a state for the recent presidential election. Interestingly, this is the first time in decades that this state switched to blue. The Republican line of thinking is that the more people vote, the more it benefits Democrats, as evident in the recent election. So this new bill makes it harder for people to vote... but it's not just "people," it's people of color.
Think about it: Who is more likely to have all their paperwork in order, be able to take time off to vote on a Tuesday (voting day in the U.S), and wait on long lines at a voting center? Not poorer people of color who are more likely to vote blue, but middle to higher-class white people who are more likely to vote red. Thus, Republican legislators are adamant about these laws, albeit them being racist.
Echoing the above, Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, claims how low-income voters are less likely to have driver's licenses and other forms of required identification, and therefore are disincentivized to vote, leading to a decrease in the number of low-income voters who are more likely to vote blue. This is exactly what Republicans want.
The U.S has had a rough history of racist voting practices, including "poll taxes, literacy tests, and more recently, photo-identification requirements and voter-list purges, all of which hurt poorer, less educated people," according to Jonathan Coopersmith, a historian of technology at Texas A&M University.
Additionally, a 2020 study by Keith Chen et.al, a behavioral economist at UCLA, found how residents of black neighborhoods waited 29% longer to vote and were 74% more likely to spend more than 30 minutes at their polling place. This suggests how voting for people of color is already hard without this new law in Georgia.
The changes the bill has made to voting are endless, yet suppression poisons each one.
The criminalization of the distribution of food/drinks at a voting center is outright wrong. Democratic state Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler decried the bill on Thursday saying how "they [G.O.P] want to make it a crime to bring Grandma some water while she's waiting in line." While this tactic ostensibly doesn't target low-income people of color, some observers claim that the tactic is an attempt to curb voting by people of color who live in urban areas and are Democrats. Why would a poor, single, busy mother go out of her way to find transportation to a voting center where no food is available? It seems innocuous, yet it's these small tactics that discourage low-income people of color from voting.
Before the bill, absentee ballots could be requested six months before the election, while now it has been cut down to only three months. Since 1.3 million Georgians voted with absentee ballots and 65% of them voted for Biden, it is highly likely that this cut of requesting time is to reduce the number of Democrat voters.
Before the bill, voters simply had to sign their absentee ballot applications. Now they have to provide their driver's license numbers or photo identification. For lower-income people of color, it will affect them more because chances are they will make mistakes.
When the coronavirus hit last year, the Georiga state government sent its citizens absentee ballots as people were hibernating in the confine of their homes. But now, even though Georgians are still enduring the pandemic, this new law ends government-delivered mail-in ballots in order to curtail mail-in voting. This advances the Republican agenda.
The New York Times has analyzed the 98-page bill, and these Jim Crow-esque practices of voter suppression continue.
"It's like the Christmas tree of goodies for voter suppression," Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan said on Thursday.
The Republican response to the left-wing backlash is utilizing cancel culture. Since baseball's All-Star game has been moved from Georgia to Colorado and dozens of companies are moving out of Georgia or condemning the new bill, Republicans are not only infuriated; they are urging the cancelation of these companies and MLB.
This whole bill is shady and wrong; it is undemocratic and sick. We, as the people of the U.S and as global citizens, must realize that the right to vote is sacred, and it's being tainted by this bill.