While voter suppression efforts are an unfortunate staple of United States politics, the 98-page voting bill recently passed in Georgia is an “assault on voting rights unlike anything we’ve seen since the Jim Crow era”. Supporters of the bill argue it is meant to restore confidence in voters, however, the restrictions are much better aligned with the goal of suppressing the rights and turnout of Black and minority voters.
“We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we’ve seen since the Jim Crow era.” - Gloria Butler, Georgia State Senate Minority Leader
The obstacles put into law through this bill are extensive, ranging from a restriction in the number of ballot boxes in large counties, to outlawing the provision of water to voters stuck in long lines. With this bill signed into law, some of the changes Georgia voters can expect for the next election cycle include:
Changes to the ballot mailing process: Prior to the new law, voters were allowed six months from election day to request their mail ballot. Now, voters can only start requesting one up to 78 days in advance of an election. In addition to this, counties may no longer send ballots out to all registered voters - a mail ballot must be requested to receive one. Since registered voters must now request their ballot within a much smaller window of time, this leaves more room for mail delays and the chance of ballots not arriving in time to count.
Provisions for voters waiting in long lines are now restricted: The bill banned the handing out of food and water within 150 feet of a polling place. This makes it much harder for people to wait in long lines.
New strict ID requirements for absentee ballots: In addition to the standard signature requirement for absentee ballots, Georgia voters will now have to provide a number from their driver’s license or other state-issued ID. The strict new ID requirements are certain to limit access to absentee voting, as IDs are not readily accessible for many people due to financial strains, lack of transportation, and lack of access to required documents.
Shortened early voting in runoff elections: Early voting for runoff elections will now be only one Monday-Friday period, rather than three weeks.
Fewer ballot drop boxes and less accessibility: The new law added a limit on the number of drop boxes counties can have. For example, the four counties that make up metropolitan Atlanta had 94 drop boxes in 2020 and can now only have 23 drop boxes at most. In addition to this, drop boxes will no longer be accessible 24-hours, as they are required to be placed indoors at government buildings. This means that individuals will not be able to drop their ballots off during non-business hours.
“As of March 24, legislators have introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states.” - Brennan Center for Justice
Unfortunately, Georgia is not the only state rolling out legislation of this kind. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, legislators had introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions spanning 47 states as of late March. This number is expected to continue climbing as we head closer to the 2022 election cycle.
Get to the Point: Georgia passed a 98-page voting bill which will suppress the vote of Black voters through decreased access and a range of new restrictions and requirements. This is only the beginning of a trend towards greater voter suppression, with states across the country introducing an increasing number of bills with restrictive provisions.