On Thursday night, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into law S.B. 202, a bill whose only purpose is to prevent communities of color —principally Black and Latino citizens— from exercising their right to vote in Georgia. The law, which started as a two-page document, ended up being over 90 pages long and rolled back voter rights in several ways.
In a nutshell, the bill shortens the window for requesting absentee ballots, limits the number and location of drop boxes, adds unnecessary identification requirements, and even makes it illegal to give water or food to people waiting in line to vote. You read that right—you can now get arrested in Georgia for providing water to people.
What makes all of this worse is that the motivations for enacting the bill couldn’t have been clearer. After all, both the Governor and the Secretary of State repeatedly said there was no evidence of voter fraud. What this really is about is suppressing the vote that sent two Democrats to the U.S. Senate. It’s about suppressing the vote for the 2022 elections that will have Governor Kemp on the ballot.
Instead of focusing on changing their policy priorities to align with those of Georgia voters, one party decided to change the rules of the game to make it less fair and block participation. We’ve seen this before. In the late 19THE century, a series of anti-Black laws were passed by white-dominated state legislatures to prevent Blacks from voting. These laws were known as Jim Crow laws and were in effect until 1965.
The measures passed yesterday are part of the new Jim Crow 2.0. Eliminating voter rights, suppressing the vote, and lowering participation margins to ensure one group of people stay in power. That’s not a democracy. That’s an oligarchy.
Unfortunately, it’s a form of oppression that keeps growing in the United States as we speak. The Brennan Center for Justice issued a report last month stating that 253 bills with provisions restricting voter rights were introduced in 2021 across 43 state legislatures. Georgia is really just the tip of the iceberg.
However, we can’t lose hope. As my abuela used to say: “los buenos somos más.” That same report by the Brennan Center also mentioned that 704 bills expanding voter rights had been introduced in 43 states. Additionally, two bills were introduced in Congress —the For the People Act”and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act— that, if passed, would provide federal protections to voters from these types of measures.
So now is not the time to stay put while state legislatures turn back the clock 70 years; we need to do everything in our power to keep expanding the rights of voters instead of curtailing them.
Call, text, or email your Representatives and Senators in Congress and tell them that they need to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Our democracy is at stake.
Frankie Miranda is the President and CEO of the Hispanic Federation. Twitter: @HispanicFed and @frankiemiranda_.
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