There are all kinds of cliches in politics. Some famous ones are, “elections have consequences”, “if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain”, “I deal with facts, not fiction”, and my favorite is “we’re running a positive campaign.” You don’t have to be of a certain age to remember when the 2020 general election season was not necessarily positive. It also carried major consequences.
Georgia Republicans decried the numbers of Black and Brown people that came out to vote in record numbers and have introduced legislation squarely designed to squash our enthusiasm and please the current Caporegime of the Republican Party, Donald J. Trump.
There are several bills making their way through both houses in the State Legislature. Many of them insist on voter ID laws, curtailing absentee voting rules. However, I’ll focus on House Bill 531, which limits Sunday voting. Section 12 of the bill says counties must hold early voting from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for three weeks before Election Day. Secondly, it requires a mandatory 9 a.m. -to- 5 p.m. period of voting the second Saturday before Election Day. Next, HB531 would allow counties to extend hours to 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Here’s the kicker: HB531 would prohibit counties from holding early voting any other days — including Sunday voting which is wildly popular in Metro Atlanta, the surrounding suburbs, and among Black voters. Churches normally hold “souls to the polls” events, immediately after the end of services.
“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,” said Nse Ufot, founder of the advocacy group New South Super PAC.
Two years ago, I had the privilege to travel to Savannah to document a souls to the polls event. The line stretched for more than a quarter of a mile as many Blacks sought to cast their ballots ahead of the gubernatorial race between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp. One of the overarching beliefs as these folks sought to cast their ballots, their vote was viewed as their stance against the racial animus President Trump and the GOP openly fermented over the prior two years.
Kemp would claim victory by 50,000 votes, although more than 107,000 Georgians were unable to vote due to the fact they did not vote in previous election cycles. Those folks were purged from the rolls. The majority of those folks would re-register to vote during the 2020 election cycle as they were outraged at Georgia Republicans’ voter suppression tactics.
Republicans saw what would be coming around the corner.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights reported that Georgia is the only state formerly under federal oversight to adopt all five of the most common voter suppression tactics: voter ID laws, proof of citizenship requirements, purges, cuts in early voting, and polling place closures.
The enthusiasm was high in 2020, the contrasts between the Democratic and Republican platforms were stark, the Georgia GOP’s stance is really based on a short-term strategy (as long as it’s successful) to gerrymander districts and salvage their shrinking base as Trumpism continues to metastasize.
Where does this leave the voter? You and me? This places a huge importance on down-ballot elections. The elections for County Commissioners, State Senators & Representatives often run for Congress, Governor, etc. But, those are the folks that have the ability to introduce and build legislation that has the most direct impact on our daily lives. See, what happened when Governor Kemp signed the controversial “heartbeat bill” in to law that would ban abortion after six weeks?
On November 2, 2018, the late John Lewis said, “they will not be able to hold us down”, when Georgia turns blue. He’d later say, “I’m asking you to go and vote like you’ve never voted before. We have to vote.”
Because Georgia is blue, Republicans are red-faced. The Republican party is a mess, but they are getting in formation as they unite around the access to cast a vote. Malcolm X said the following during a 1964 speech:
“Don’t be throwing out any ballots. A ballot is like a bullet. You don’t throw your ballots until you see a target, and if that target is not within your reach, keep your ballot in your pocket.”
Black people cast their ballots in 2020 in Georgia in overwhelming numbers. Now, Trump-supporting Georgia Republicans are seeking to restrict your voting access. This is their metaphorical last stand.