Jim Crow Echoes in Georgia Legislature’s Voting Restrictions

Statement of Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis

Georgia Republicans didn’t like the results of the 2020 election so they decided they would try to dictate who they will let vote and who they won’t let vote. Republican legislators have deliberately targeted Black and brown Georgians with a disgraceful string of bills that harken back to the dark days of Jim Crow in Georgia. If anyone has any doubts whatsoever about the racial targeting of this proposed legislation they need look no further than its ban on weekend early voting which will end Souls to the Polls, the longstanding tradition of Black congregations in Georgia going to vote after Sunday services.

Souls to the Polls has long been a tradition in my family. In our Sunday best, we have always gone to the same polling location where my great grandmother served as a poll worker. That tradition is in jeopardy as GOP legislators attempt to turn back the clock and perpetuate minority rule.

Before the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act, these changes would never have been approved by the U.S. Department of Justice because they would disproportionately hurt minority communities. The proposed changes to Georgia’s voting laws are exhibit A for why Congress must pass the For the People Act to protect the freedom of every American to cast a ballot. If that freedom is not protected by the federal government, there are legislators in Georgia and elsewhere who will take it away.

These bills definitely impact all Georgia voters who do not have the luxury and leisure time to vote whenever polls are open and lines at the polls are short. Many Georgians will have to make difficult choices related to their jobs, and even their health, in order to be able to cast a ballot if these measures become law. The legislators ramming these bills through simply do not care about how these restrictions would impact voters, election administrators, and counties. They are only concerned about how to make it harder for those they believe are more likely to vote against them to cast a ballot.

The process of jamming these voter suppression bills through the Georgia House and Senate has been a travesty. Changes were being introduced right through the weekend and the opportunity for public input was woefully insufficient. And remarkably the whole process was based on a lie that GOP legislators themselves perpetuated. They lied to their supporters about the result of the election and then used the doubts sown by those lies as justification for this strongarm attempt to install minority rule by keeping thousands of Georgians from voting.