Our democracy is under attack. As of today, more than 300 different pieces of voter suppression legislation have been introduced across the country. Just last week, in Georgia, the state that tipped the Senate for Democrats in January, Governor Brian Kemp signed a sweeping 98-page omnibus “election” bill (aka voter suppression bill), into law surrounded by white male legislators under a painting of a slave plantation.
The scene was reminiscent of the 1950s and 60s Jim Crow Era politics, where white men disenfranchised thousands of black voters to prevent integration. Because while they may talk a lot about protecting our elections, Georgia SB 202, the “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” is as blatant a piece of voter suppression legislation as you can get.
If Democrats want to have any chance of retaining power in the next round of elections, they have to stop these blatant, Jim-Crow-esque voter suppression laws springing up around the country, particularly the ones that, like SB 202, disproportionately target communities of color. The only way to do that is by passing HR 1, the For the People Act.
SB 202 gives us a peek into the draconian restrictions we are facing without passage of the For The People Act. Here are some of the ways it will impact the 2022 elections in Georgia.
Who it impacts:
Over 2.2 million Georgia voters rely on absentee ballots to cast their vote. These populations are largely made up of voters over 65, with a disability, in the military, or those who live overseas during the election. These new rules will lead to confusion for those who relied on the previous systems for casting their absentee ballots, as well as make it much less convenient for many absentee voters to get their vote in. Election day voters and poll workers are also impacted by the changes, as a brand new set of rules will apply to election day.
How will they be impacted:
- Instead of the 180-day window to request an absentee ballot, voters will have a shorter 77 days to request, less than half of the previous window of time.
- Absentee ballots will look completely different and be required to be printed on a special security paper. When absentee ballots are returned they are required to have a voter’s name, signature, driver’s license or state ID number, and your date of birth.
- Sunday voting hours are now optional for counties, making many organizers of the 60-year-old tradition called ‘Souls to the Polls’, a Black church voting march, concerned about 2022. This could prevent a large portion of the Black population from voting if they are unaware of polling policies and rely on Souls to the Polls to cast their vote.
- Poll workers were previously required to check voter signatures on the application for those on file to release a ballot to a voter. Now voters have to provide a State ID number or driver’s license number to request a ballot. Poll workers will require your license or state identification number, your name, date of birth, and address. This rule change will impact those who do not have a state ID or License while voting – 11% of adults in the United States do not have government-issued identification.
- Scanned ballot images will now be added to public records disclosures, and the secretary of state’s office will create a pilot program for posting those images online. Although voting records are public, this elevates the amount of information dispersed and strips a level of anonymity from voters.
- It is now a misdemeanor to hand out “any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink” to anyone standing in line to vote. The prohibition extends 150 feet from a polling place and 25 feet from any person standing in line.
- Counties will be required to certify election results within six days, instead of the 10 days currently allowed. Election workers will also be required to count ballots without stopping until they’re finished. With high voter turnout, these working conditions could be dangerous for poll workers and lead to more mistakes.
- Ballot drop boxes will have to be located in early-voting locations and can only be accessible when those polling sites are open, and now drop boxes for absentee ballots will be removed four days before the election. This severely limits the usefulness of ballot drop boxes for people who are not able to drop off their ballots during normal voting hours, typically low-income workers with limited ability to take time off.
Three organizations, The New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter, and Rise Inc., have filed a lawsuit to try to block the law, saying that the new law violates the 1st and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the federal Voting Rights Act. But even if they succeed at overturning this specific law, there are 300 others coming down the pike.
Republicans are working hard to implement state-wide voter disenfranchisement across the country, and the only way for Democrats to stop them is to preempt all of them with the For the People Act, which has overwhelming support from both Republican and Democratic voters and a 68% approval rating across demographics.
Here’s how it would help to protect federal elections and fight back against these archaic Jim Crow laws being implemented in the states.
The For The People Act requires states to:
- Implement automatic voter registration for eligible voters
- Offer at least 15 days of early voting
- Allow for no-excuse absentee voting
- Offer same-day voter registration
- Restore the voting rights of millions of citizens who have felonies
- Creates a legal standard for voter waiting time periods of 30 minutes of less to cast an individuals ballot
- Create nonpartisan redistricting commissions to end gerrymandering, with a public comment period and a legal basis for citizens to challenge gerrymandering
The For The People Act changes campaign finance by:
- Requires super PACs and “dark money” groups to disclose their donors publicly
- A public funding match for small-dollar donations of 6:1, financed by fees on corporations and banks paying criminal or civil penalties, allowing for greater chances of racial and gender parity within our elected bodies
- Require social media apps like Facebook or Twitter to publically report those who purchase political ads and how much they spent
The For The People Act impacts those in power by:
- Create the first-ever ethics rules for Supreme Court justices
- Prevent any member of Congress from using taxpayer money to settle out of court for sexual harassment or discrimination lawsuits
- Force presidential candidates to disclose their tax status
With 43 states facing laws that are aiming to strip constituents of their rights to vote, the For The People Act can swiftly shut down those who seek to dismantle democracy. It can steer us away from a new era of Jim Crow laws and make sure all Americans have access to voting, not just the white and wealthy. We have to pass this bill, or more voter suppression laws will pass and eventually stifle democracy for the foreseeable future.