Republican lawmakers rammed through sweeping legislation Thursday that makes it harder to vote and disproportionately targets Democratic and black voters in a crucial battleground for the 2020 election and future presidential and congressional elections.
The move confirms that the peach state is the epicenter of the battle for American democracy that has raged during Trump’s presidency and during the rebellion he sparked against the US Capitol, and which now threatens to taint future elections as Republicans push through new laws restricting voting in many states.
What worries me is the anti-American nature of this initiative. He’s sick. It hurts, President Joe Biden said this afternoon at the first press conference of his presidency.
Georgia’s law raises questions about whether the election safeguards that prevented Trump’s frantic attempts to rig the 2020 race for the White House will also apply in future elections, amid false allegations of voter fraud in the presidential election.
It was written after Democrats won Georgia’s presidential election for the first time since 1992, amid a massive national turnout. Voting methods, including the ability to vote in absentia, have been expanded to make it easier for Americans to exercise their basic democratic rights in the event of a pandemic. Georgia Republicans also lost two seats in the U.S. Senate, giving Democrats control of the House of Representatives – 50-50, based on a high turnout of black voters in the January election.
After he left office, Donald Trump demanded that Republican state lawmakers pass laws banning absentee ballots and preventing courts from interfering in election disputes. With his immense popularity within the GOP, the former president’s admission of his false conspiracy theories about voter fraud in 2020 was a litmus test for Republican candidates seeking his support in the upcoming primaries.
The Georgia bill is just one example of attempts by the GOP in several states, including many key electoral battlegrounds, to curb diverse urban demographics in favor of Democrats, which critics see as an attempt to consolidate minority power in the United States.
Iowa has already taken steps to limit absentee and voting time. Texas is taking steps to reduce voting times and absenteeism in major Democratic cities like Houston. In another state, Arizona, which Trump lost, new voting laws are being proposed by Republicans.
Georgia law triggers new debate over federal election law
GOP leaders justify voter suppression measures by saying they are necessary to fight fraud and restore public confidence in the fairness of American elections. But multiple courts and Trump’s own Justice Department have determined that there was no widespread voter fraud in 2020. And much of the voter distrust has been fueled by Trump’s patently false claims that he had been cheated in a corrupt election, which have been constantly broadcast by the conservative media.
Georgia’s actions have thrown a political grenade into the debate over many Democrats’ campaign in Washington to repeal Senate supermajority rules that Republicans could use to stop their radical election law, known as the People’s Act. This would establish national standards and remove the restrictions that currently exist in Georgia’s legislation. Republicans are calling the Democrats’ bill an unconstitutional power grab.
The drama in the Georgia legislature came when Biden denounced the state’s restrictive legislation as a relic of the Jim Crow era that institutionalized racism, and hinted that he might return to the Senate to abolish the filibuster in order to pass a Democratic bill in the House.
But Biden refused to disclose his strategy for passing the Voting Rights Act.
A new law in Georgia sets stricter requirements for verification of absentee ballots, allows officials to take over the duties of election commissions, and limits the number of ballot boxes that facilitate voting. Under this law, any Georgian can challenge voter registration indefinitely and it is a crime to offer food and water to voters who must stand in long lines to vote.
Black voters, hampered by the city’s voting restrictions, often stand in line for hours to vote in inclement weather. The blatant attacks on African-American voters in Georgia and elsewhere are reminiscent of some of the most horrific racist episodes in America’s past and fuel accusations of overt Republican racism.
Governor criticized by Trump signs new law
The Georgia law was quickly signed by the Republican governor. By Brian Kemp, who aroused Trump’s ire last year by refusing to play along with Biden to overcome a 12,000-vote victory in the state, as confirmed by multiple audits.
Kemp argued that the law makes it easier to vote and harder to commit fraud.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the Republican who opposed Trump’s calls to find votes for repeal, said in a statement to CNN that he still supports free voting but would not criticize the law.
In implementing this law, I will ensure that no eligible Georgian is prevented from exercising their right to vote, and I will continue to monitor the security of our elections so that every Georgian can have confidence in the results of our elections, Raffensperger said. Earlier this week, Trump announced his support for Congressman Jody Hays in his bid to defeat Raffensperger in the primary.
Kemp’s quick signature on the bill is yet another sign of the intense pressure under which Republican politicians are facing, hoping that Trump and his cronies can create a political future in their states. Kemp is up for re-election in 2022 and could face Democrat Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator and prominent voting rights advocate who played a key role in Biden’s victory in Georgia.
While the FBI continues to round up insurgents who have bled to defend lies about our elections, Republican leaders are deliberately undermining democracy by giving themselves the power to undo results they don’t like, Abrams said in a statement. More than ever, Americans must demand federal action to protect voting rights, while continuing to fight against these blatantly unconstitutional efforts that are nothing but Jim Crow 2.0.
Georgia’s law, which critics fear will allow state officials to deny counties the right to certify their own election results and take other measures to suppress voters, is likely to face a serious challenge in court. Three eligible groups have already filed lawsuits against Georgia law Thursday night.
Damon Hewitt, interim president and executive director of the non-partisan Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said the measure directly targets voters of color who voted in record numbers in the 2020 election.
According to Hewitt, this should be noted as Exhibit A, which confirms that discriminatory voter suppression is alive and well and clearly explains why we need federal election laws to stop them. We are prepared to act and to protect the fundamental right to vote through the courts.
The People’s Act, pending before the Senate, would establish automatic voter registration across the country and restore the parts of the Voting Rights Act that have been eroded by the Supreme Court. It will also strengthen the in absentia voting system and allow early voting throughout the country, and take measures to reduce waiting times at polling stations.
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