By Will Caraccio
As the 2020 election for the office of the President of the United States came to a close in the week and a half after November 3, President Trump, aware of the improbability of his victory, made one final hail mary: he asked the Secretary of State of Georgia to “find” 11,000 votes. By what means the governor should go about procuring these election-changing votes, the President did not specify. Nonetheless, the implication was clear–get the votes, even if electoral integrity must be sacrificed in the process.
While this last-ditch attempt to pull victory from the jaws of defeat did not come to fruition (thankfully), today the Georgian legislature has devised a new way to reestablish the southern state as a Republican stronghold. Passing SB 202, a 98-page omnibus bill enacting significant changes to the current state of voting in the Georgia, the Republicans may have found a way to attain those elusive 11,000 votes; by restricting voting access to certain demographics, particularly African-American urbanites centered in Atlanta, the Republican-controlled Georgian legislature has found a way to significantly decrease voter turnout among Democratic-leaning groups. While the new voting bill will not claim an extra 11,000 red votes through illicit measures, as suggested by Trump, it surely will claim many more through a tried-and-true southern tradition that is as destructive to democracy as it is morally detestable: voter suppression.
So how exactly does SB 202 limit voting opportunities for minorities and those of low-socioeconomic backgrounds? Firstly, should the bill survive the numerous legal challenges it has attracted, it would grant counties and the Georgia General Assembly significantly more influence over local officials administering elections than in previous years. In a state with a shameful history of government-fostered racial discrimination, this undue influence of state authorities in local elections begs an important question: the next time a Republican demagouge of the likes of Trump demands an election be overturned or democracy trampled, will he have help? One of the other biggest changes comes in the form of absentee voting reform–a method of voting which was widely used in the 2020 election, overwhelmingly so by Democrats. First off, the bill adds unnecessary voter-ID requirements to verify ballots, a step meant to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. According to the Rolling Stone, “Black voters were much more likely to vote by mail during last November’s pandemic-afflicted election, and this bill adds onerous voter-ID requirements for submitting absentee ballots.” Furthermore, the bill will also make the window for absentee voting much shorter, by halving the amount of time voters can request an early ballot (183 days before an election to now 11 weeks), moving up the final deadline to complete an application, and delaying the date in which counties will begin mailing out absentee ballots. In a political atmosphere where absentee ballots are the clear preference of Democratic voters, and in Georgia, primarily African-American voters, this provision of SB 202 represents a systematic attack on voting equity and electoral integrity, with political gain for the Republicans of Georgia as the morally corrosive incentive. While SB 202 ostensibly expands in-person voting hours, it places arbitrary restrictions on voting at polling stations located anywhere other than one’s area of residence. These new limitations, though seemingly innocuous, intentionally target those of low-socioeconomic backgrounds (demographics that typically vote blue) by not accommodating for long working hours, commutes, night shifts, and general inability to take any time off from work due to financial concerns. Perhaps most egregiously, the new bill has made it illegal to provide voters in long lines with water or food–yes, you read that right, the state of Georgia is so committed to discouraging urbanites living in highly populated areas from voting that it has begun to wage a war of attrition against its own citizens.