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Atlanta Civic Circle Democracy

Democracy under siege: States introducing raft of voter-suppression bills

Credit Maggie Lee

America’s main path to Democracy is under siege.

More than 100 voter-suppression bills have been introduced in 28 states – including Georgia – in the wake of record voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election, according to the Voting Roundup 2021 study by Brennan Center for Justice.

The 106 bills noted in the Brennan study seek to limit mail voting access, impose stricter voter ID requirements, limit successful pro-voter registration policies and allow for more aggressive voter roll purges.

In Georgia, state Republican leadership introduced eight bills last week that would, if passed, end automatic voter registration and ballot drop boxes, require photo IDs to get an absentee ballot application and an excuse to vote absentee.

“They’re returning to voter suppression to win elections,” Georgia activist and former Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said Monday during a virtual news conference to discuss the recent legislation. Abrams, founder and chair of Fair Fight Action, was joined by Washington, D.C. attorney Mark Elias and Margaret Huang, president and chief executive officer of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The trio said the slate of Georgia bills target communities of color, young people, the poor, the disabled, and the elderly.

“We are prepared to fight every Republican attempt to roll back voting in Georgia. These kinds of changes do nothing other than undermine Democracy and victimize the very people you were sent to represent,” Elias, chair of Perkins Coie’s Political Law Group, said. Elias has litigated more than a dozen election-related cases in recent years.

Meanwhile, the number of backlash bills are growing.

State lawmakers around the country have introduced three times the number of voter-suppression bills compared to the same period a year ago: 106 vs.35. More than a quarter of the proposed voting and election bills deal with absentee voting procedures while a third seek to limit mail voting.

“These bills are an unmistakable response to the unfounded and dangerous lies about fraud that followed the 2020 election,” the Brennan report noted.

Pennsylvania with 14 proposed bills, leads the nation in proposed voter suppression legislation, according to the report, followed by New Hampshire (11), Missouri (9) and Mississippi, New Jersey and Texas, with eight each. Georgia had not yet introduced its bills when the Brennan report was released on Jan. 26.

“If we succeed in passing the John R. Lewis Voting Rights (Advancement) Act, it would stop laws like the laws in Georgia,” Huang said.

The Lewis Act would review changes in voting – such as the institution of a voter ID law or the reduction of multilingual voting materials –  practices that historically have had the greatest discriminatory impact, especially on people of color, young people and the elderly.

Even as some state lawmakers push to stifle voter participation, others have introduced measures to expand access to voting. Some 35 states have introduced or carried over to this year, 406 bills which focus on mail voting, early voting, voter registration and restoration of voting rights.

Abrams told Atlanta Civic Circle that the likelihood of the Georgia bills becoming law “depends on the degree of pressure put on these legislators to do what’s right. I’ve seen bipartisan support for rejecting this type of behavior multiple times. I hold out hope until sine die.

Legislation increasingly is being introduced nationally that will make it tougher for Americans to vote. Here’s what you can do to voice your concern and become more involved:

See what states have introduced restrictive voting bills here.

Contact your legislator here.

Have a concern? Let us know in the comments section below.

(Header image, via Unsplash: A roll of voting stickers. Maggie Lee contributed to this report.)

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