In between the trying times, when thousands of Americans were already struggling to vote in one way or another, Georgia passed a voting law that would restrict Georgian’s right to vote.
Without any legislative discussion, the Georgian Republican Governor Brian Kemp has signed a law, the Election Integrity Act of 2021, behind closed doors. The signing of the Georgia voting law is the first legislative landmark of Republicans after Trump’s defeat and his baseless rhetoric of election fraud.
Experts believe that it will unanimously disenfranchise people of color who were predominantly inclined towards Democrats.
President Joe Biden has already denounced the bill, terming it “Jim Crow in the 21st Century.”
As Republicans introduce voting ID requirements for absentee ballots, what are the measures taken in the latest law by the Republicans, and how will they affect the long-lasting struggle of the voting rights watchdogs? Let’s see.
Criminalizing Food Supply to Voters
The Republican-signed law will criminalize “any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink,” to people waiting in line to vote.
While some people believe that distributing food and drinks was a strategy used by the political dominators to influence the decisions of the voters, it seems to be a falsified approach.
In reality, it was often used as a humanitarian gesture where edibles and drinks were provided to those waiting in line, as those queues lasted for hours at times, and it became next to impossible for people to stand there without any food intake.
This results in people leaving the queues early without voting, resulting in the decreased turnouts.
It is pertinent to note here that, in Georgia, reports suggest that people of color have to wait in line for quite a long time compared to the white voters.
It means that those people of color will be more vulnerable to this discrimination, as they would start leaving the voting queues without voting, resulting in an unprecedented disenfranchisement.
Republicans’ Attempt to Take over the Local Election Offices
Currently, most of the administrative work in Georgia’s elections is done by 159 counties represented all over Georgia.
In the newly proposed Georgia voting law, the State Election Board is entrusted with powers to exercise its authority in the county election offices.
This is a game-changing move, as the state offices would be able to remove the local offices or even change the officials appointed there.
As of now, the State Election Board is flooded with Republicans, which would provide them a favorable playing field to appoint the local officers according to their wishes.
From now on, Republicans will be influencing the elections to an unprecedented extent, including the election certification process, which they tried to engineer heavily after Trump’s defeat in the election.
Fulton County would be an automatic choice for Republicans in this mission of voter suppression, as they would leave no stone unturned to influence this Democratic-dominated county.
Under the new Georgia voting law, the authorities can intervene in four counties at a time. It is an obvious choice for Republicans to influence the four Democratic-dominated counties to make sure that they orchestrate the elections to the maximum possible extent.
Changing Runoffs Pattern
Georgia is the only state currently allowing runoff elections between the top two contenders in the polls in case of anyone failing to win a simple majority.
The same runoffs cost them two Senate seats as Democrats clinched both seats in the January contest.
As per the previous law, the runoffs were conducted after nine weeks of the general elections, but this Georgia voting law has reduced this time to four weeks.
Earlier elections would mean less mail-in voting, hence minimizing the participation of the general public in the most important discourse of democracy.
Amid all of this drama by Georgia Republicans, a lawsuit has already been filed against the Georgia State election board and Secretary of State that could stop this Georgia voting law.
Apart from that, many eyes are now on federal HR 1 legislation mandated to strengthen national authority on elections by weakening the states’ roles.
This is not the first time that Republicans tried to disenfranchise the masses from the public discourse. In fact, their only strategy in Georgia’s runoffs revolved around suppressing votes.
It was an expected move as Republicans were already trying to further their voting rights agenda in the previous days, where they proposed various legislations in different states.
It remains on the courts now to win the voting rights back for Georgians or not, as the absolute implementation of this new Georgia voting law would completely mess up the whole system.