The Georgia General Assembly is considering dozens of election-related bills without adequate opportunities for public input. As one example, two Special Subcommittees of the Senate Ethics Committee are now scheduled to hear proposals simultaneously tomorrow, beginning at 7:00 am, without any opportunity for remote testimony from the public. The meetings were originally scheduled for today at 7:00 am — and only rescheduled late last night.
Statement of Aunna Dennis, Executive Director of Common Cause Georgia
Every voter in Georgia needs to pay attention to the Legislature’s effort to change the way we hold our elections.
Our current system of elections dates back to 2005, and a bill passed by a Republican-led Legislature and signed by then-Governor Sonny Perdue. That bill, when it was passed, was sufficiently burdensome that leaders of the state Legislative Black Caucus compared it to Jim Crow-era methods of disenfranchisement, like the poll tax or the literacy test.
But despite those burdens, and despite a pandemic, a majority of Georgia’s voters chose Joe Biden for President in November. So now our Republican-led Legislature is following a national script: blaming Donald Trump’s loss on a variety of unsubstantiated allegations. Those talking points helped Trump pull in more than $250 million in donations after the election, even though only a tiny fraction of that was spent on legal challenges.
But here in Georgia, those talking points are being used to justify bills that would make voting even harder. Here in Georgia, audit after audit upheld the outcome of our elections. County elections workers counted every single ballot by hand — and confirmed the outcome of the election. Our Secretary of State ordered a “forensic” audit of voting machines — and “found no sign of foul play.” Then he ordered a “signature match audit” in Cobb County — and found “no fraudulent absentee ballots.” A third count of presidential election ballots confirmed Trump’s loss, and the results were recertified. Lawsuit after lawsuit was withdrawn or dismissed.
Secretary Raffensperger announced that “Georgians can now move forward knowing that their votes, and only their legal votes, were counted accurately, fairly, and reliably.”
And yet, state legislators are using the claims that Secretary Raffensperger deemed “mythological” to rationalize legislation to disenfranchise Georgia voters.
Common Cause Georgia is tracking more than 60 proposals, so far. We expect an “omnibus” bill to be filed this week – and there may be others coming. The bills submitted to date represent a full menu of ways to make voting harder and benefit a single political party, such as: banning absentee ballot drop-boxes; prohibiting voters from using absentee ballots except in limited circumstances; allowing state takeovers of county elections systems; ending the use of donations or grants, such as the donated PPE used in November; restrict the use of mobile polling places like Fulton County’s converted bus; require voters to mail copies of their personal identification with both ballot requests and voted ballots; changing Morgan County’s board of elections so that all members can be from a single political party; and ending “automatic voter registration” at the Department of Driver Services – a program Secretary Raffensperger credits with adding more than 5 million people to Georgia’s voter rolls.
The breadth and depth of these anti-voter proposals is stunning. It seems some of our elected officials have forgotten who they’re supposed to be working for.
The proposals are steamrolling through the legislative process with little opportunity for public input or awareness. For instance: meetings of “special subcommittees” that are scheduled and rescheduled with little notice, that are held at 7:00 am, and that are held — in the middle of a pandemic — without any opportunity for the public to testify remotely.
These hearings are clearly designed to avoid public participation. It seems some of our legislators have forgotten we are supposed to have a government ‘of the people’ and ‘by the people.’ It seems they are acting on behalf of partisan interests, instead.
Georgia has a long history of voter suppression – and these proposals would only continue that history. Our country is in the midst of a racial justice movement. Now is not the time to take the Republicans’ voting system from 2005 and add draconian attacks on ballot access that would disproportionately impact voters of color.
Voters bear enough burdens trying to make our voices heard. Legislators should stop their efforts to sideline the voters they are supposed to be serving.