Georgians continue to withstand one crisis after another. On top of a global pandemic that turned the world upside down, many residents, particularly in our Asian-American community, are still reeling from the spa shootings in Atlanta. And now, the Republican-driven state legislature has passed a set of voter suppression laws in an attempt to fight so-called “election fraud.”
Unfortunately, these policies are only the latest in a string of partisan efforts from the GOP, and they couldn’t have come at the worst time. Millions of constituents, especially minorities, are still struggling to secure a job, care for their children, and protect their health; the failure to align legislative activity with the needs of our people couldn’t be more alarming.
But political scrutiny is nothing new for Georgia. After President Joe Biden became the first Democrat to carry the state in almost two decades, local Republicans began spreading false claims of election fraud.
The reality is that much of our statewide political representation no longer truly represents the good people of our state. Data show that counties with progressive populations are growing quickly and at higher rates than the rest of the state.
Rather than accepting these demographic changes, however, Republicans have retaliated in fear by passing legislation that blatantly restricts democratic participation in vulnerable communities. Many lawmakers, activists, and corporations have already blasted the move. State Representative Park Cannon was even arrested for knocking on the governor’s statehouse door while he signed the bill.
The legislation will place restrictions on voting hours, reduce ballot drop box locations, and criminalize offering food or water to voters in line. These policies will make voting harder for all, but especially for communities of color. Minorities are more likely to have jobs with less flexibility, and limiting access to voting centers or drop boxes only makes voting even more difficult. According to the CDC, there is increasing evidence that racial and ethnic minorities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Instead of widening the racial gap through voting reforms, shouldn’t we be fighting to end the inequities? Of course, for Republicans, this is about political opportunism, not democracy.
Unfortunately, this type of partisan rhetoric has spread to all levels of Georgia’s government, including AG Christopher Carr’s office. Last month, Carr pushed against the President’s climate plans, filing a lawsuit to block the Keystone cancellation. This came just a day after he warned the U.S. Treasury Department about a tax provision in the American Rescue Plan, threatening to delay necessary funding for the state.
This is sadly not the first time Carr and other Republicans have leaned on partisanship to the detriment of economic growth and recovery. A nationwide trend has emerged as conservative exact political vengeance against digital platforms for “censoring” conservative voices. GOP members in state legislatures and Congress continue to push a Trump-era agenda through misguided content moderation policies and lawsuits, transparently masked as efforts to protect free speech. The Trump legacy is clearly still alive within today’s GOP.
Considering the mounting challenges impacting our communities today, the focus right now must be on an equitable recovery – not erecting barriers to democratic participation and economic relief. GOP posturing at both the federal and local levels will likely persist, but we must not let it distract us from what really matters.