In all the other mature democracies when it comes to election reforms the purpose is to encourage participation and make it easier for electors to vote. Not so in the USA. There are at least 165 bills pending in 33 states that would make it harder to vote, according to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice.
Georgia has unveiled sweeping new legislation that would make it dramatically harder to vote in the state, following an election with record turnout and surging participation among Black voters.
The bill would block officials from offering early voting on Sundays, a day traditionally used by Black churches to mobilize voters as part of a “souls to the polls” effort. It would place new limits on the use of mail-in ballot drop-boxes, restrict who can handle an absentee ballot, and require voters to provide their driver’s license number or a copy of other identification with their application for a mail-in ballot. It would also require voters to provide the same driver’s license information on the mail-in ballot itself or the last four digits of their social security number if they do not have an acceptable ID.
The bill gives voters less time to request and return mail-in ballots, not only moving up the deadline to return an application but also limiting requests to start 78 days ahead of an election instead of the current 180. It requires election officials to reject ballots mistakenly cast in the wrong precinct and bans organizers from offering food or water to voters standing in line to cast a ballot.
A separate bill under consideration in the state senate would eliminate no excuse absentee voting, something Republicans wrote into law in 2005, only allowing people to vote by mail if they are 75 or older or have an excuse.
The effort to shorten mail-in voting comes after many voters saw severe delays in getting their mail-in ballots because of delays with the United States Postal Service and overwhelmed election offices. About one third of early votes in the state were from Black voters and Joe Biden overwhelmingly won the mail-in vote in Georgia. The problem with early voting is simple: too many African-Americans in Georgia used it.
“With exacting precision, the bill targets voters of color,” said Nse Ufot, chief of the New Georgia Project, one of the groups that mobilized voters of color in Georgia. “Georgia Republicans saw what happens when Black voters are empowered and show up at the polls, and now they’re launching a concerted effort to suppress the votes and voices of Black Georgians.”
Helen Butler, the executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, one of the groups that helped mobilize Black voters last year, said there was no justification for the bill. One of the ways Butler’s group helped voters ahead of the election was by assisting them in returning their absentee ballot applications to election officials. The Republican proposal would prohibit that.
“There’s no reason for it other than this ideology and this misinformation that there was fraud. There was no fraud in the election. The governor, everyone said there was no fraud,” she said.
“The right lost! So now they are trying to change the rules and make it harder to vote,” Deborah Scott, the executive director of Georgia Stand-Up, another group that worked to mobilize Black voters, said