By Jan Gloor
When Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock won their Senate elections in Georgia, the Democratic Party had cause for celebration. They now had control over the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Executive Branch, allowing the Democrats to pass legislation with ease. Their victory also indicated that the Southern voting bloc was changing. African Americans were becoming registered at an alarming rate. And, this alarm triggered Republican state senators and Governor Brian Kemp to take action.
Before the 2020 election, Stacey Abrams had helped register 800,000 Georgians, primarily minority voters who had previously been barred from voting in past elections. Georgia has been known for its repressive election policies. While minority voters were able to register for elections, State Legislators passed laws that removed them from registration. The most impactful law created a new check of a voter’s government files, whereupon finding an error on one of the documents, be it a simple semicolon or misspelled word, that voter’s registration was purged.
And, this led to more than 1.4 million voters being blocked from voting. Of these canceled voters, black voters were purged at the highest. Clearly, there was a malicious intent to prevent African Americans from voting, and removing the Republicans from office, as we saw in the 2020 election. They know that minority voters can take away their power, so, in response, they take away the power of the voters.
Thus, at the start of the year, Georgia’s state government passed The Election Integrity Act of 2021. But, this bill’s name twisted the truth of its contents. For one, voters must now have voter identification alongside their absentee ballots. These absentee ballots are further restricted by the limiting of ballot drop boxes. State officials can take over local election boards. It is even a crime to approach voters in line and give them food or water. This is even more heinous when one learns that polling places are less frequent in African American communities, resulting in hours of waiting.
While the last three legal actions are filled to the brim with malicious intent, Voter identification takes the mantle for creating the most voter suppression.
Nearly 11% of U.S. Citizens do not have identification. And, this is in part due to the cost of these IDs. Even if the ID was free, many people would have to pay high prices for travel. So, many people choose to go without them. This has led to a disparity in identification registration in poor communities compared to wealthier ones.
The disparities don’t end there. Nearly up to 25% of African Americans of voting age do not have a government issued photo ID, compared to 8% of white citizens. African American voters are often questioned more than white voters when it comes to their identification. As a result, African American voters are less likely to turn up to the polls.
Clearly, Georgia wishes to restrict voting, primarily of minorities. And, this incident is all too well exemplified by the arrest of State Legislator Park Cannon, an African American woman. In protest of the bill, Cannon marched down to Governor Kemp’s office, asking for transparency, but rather than courtesy she was handcuffed, forcibly removed from the capital and pushed into a police car. All the while, she was exclaiming her position as a state legislator. Other protestors watch on in horror.
In a sense, voters too are being pushed out of the capitol building losing their voting rights. And, if no one steps up, Georgia sets a worrying precedent that other Republican states will take note of.