ATLANTA— An anti-voting bill passed this week by a senate ethics committee fits a yearslong pattern of lawmakers introducing legislation aimed at diminishing the power of targeted groups of voters. The ACLU of Georgia sees this bill and all other anti-voting bills introduced this year as a continued attack on democracy in Georgia.
“These bills undermine our democracy. They are additional attempts to control the outcome of elections by raising barriers to voting by voters of color, young voters, and low income voters,” said Andrea Young, Executive Director of the ACU of Georgia.
Senate Bill 221 – an anti-voting omnibus bill – includes provisions to ban drop boxes and make it easier for people claiming voter fraud to challenge numerous voter registrations at once. Drop boxes were widely available in the 2020 elections, providing a safe, secure, and accessible option for voters to drop off their absentee ballots without relying on the postal service. This helped people whose work schedules conflicted with the hours of polling locations and people with a physical disability that prevented them from voting inside a polling location. After a record number of voters used the absentee ballot process in the 2020 elections, the Georgia legislature severely restricted their use with SB 202. While the ACLU of Georgia’s lawsuit on those changes is pending, the Senate Ethics Committee made a last-minute oral amendment to SB 221 in an after-hours meeting completely banning drop boxes in the state. The outright ban of drop boxes is another step backward for accessible elections in Georgia.
“Our constitutional right to vote is again under attack by the Georgia legislature. Drop boxes have been proven to make it easier for people to vote and eliminating them is an insult to every voter in Georgia,” said Christopher Bruce, ACLU of Georgia Policy Director. “We will continue to fight for access to the ballot regardless of actions taken by the legislature.”
While most people know that many changes happened to the way people vote in Georgia in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election, the ACLU of Georgia and other civil rights groups call attention to a coordinated effort underway to change who controls elections on the local level.
House Bill 422 would halt bipartisan appointments to the Ware County Board of Elections, mirroring a power grab carried out previously in several other counties. This bill is yet another attack on our democracy, specifically to disenfranchise Black voters and eliminate Black election board members.
SB 222 would ban private donations to elections offices. Elections officials will have even fewer resources to draw from. Last year, the legislature blessed the idea of private money donations to local police departments and created a costly tax credit to support it. Now, those same lawmakers want to ban similar donations to overworked and under-resourced elections offices.
“The hypocrisy of the Georgia legislature giving tax credits to corporations that donate to police departments while outlawing people from donating to their local board of elections sends the message that they prefer a police state instead of a voting democracy,” said Bruce. “Every Georgian should be alarmed at the erosion of voting accessibility these past years by the state legislature.”