Well, Georgia, that didn’t take long. 

The state’s Republican-dominated General Assembly passed big voting-law changes on Thursday, March 25.

(Texans, pay attention. The same process is under way in the Texas Legislature.)

Georgia’s Republican lawmakers had pushed Senate Bill 202, over the objections of Democrats, through both Senate and House along party lines --  with votes of 34-20 in the Senate and 100-75 in the House.

And, just over an hour later the same day, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the changes into law.

“Significant reforms to our state elections were needed,” Kemp said. “No doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled, and those problems, understandably, led to a crisis of confidence in the ballot box here in Georgia.”

 Protesters outside the Capitol said the bill will disenfranchise voters, calling it “Jim Crow 2.0.”

As Kemp prepared to sign the bill in his office, flanked by six other white men, a Black woman House member, State Rep. Park Cannon, D-Atlanta, knocked quietly on the governor’s office door, hoping to witness the bill signing. 

Instead, she was arrested by state troopers and taken to jail.

By changing its election laws, Gov. Kemp proclaimed, “Georgia will take another step toward ensuring our elections are secure, accessible, and fair.”     

The law includes new identification requirements for absentee ballots; allows state officials to override local election results; limits the use of ballot drop boxes; and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water.

The bill, referred to by Republicans as “The Election Integrity Act of 2021,” was sold as necessary to boost confidence in elections, after the 2020 election saw former Republican Donald Trump lose the election by just under 12,000 votes.

After that, Trump made repeated, unsubstantiated claims of fraud, as he did in a handful of other states.

Trump even called the state’s chief election official, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, trying to pressure him to find enough votes to declare Trump the winner.

But Raffensperger had the election results re-checked three times, including once by hand, and told Trump no significant errors were found.

It also turned out Trump’s pressure call had been recorded. It may become important evidence, should Georgia officials file charges of illegal intimidation, as one district attorney is contemplating.

Democratic lawmakers thought the election law changes were to make it harder for a considerable number of people to vote – particularly voters of color, who tend to favor Democrats.

“It’s like the Christmas tree of goodies for voter suppression,” Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan of Atlanta had said on the Senate floor, as lawmakers prepared to vote on the 98-page bill Thursday. 

By Thursday evening, a lawsuit challenging the new law had already been filed by a trio of voting rights groups: the New Georgia Project, the Black Voters Matter Fund and Rise Inc.

Because of a history of institutional racism, “’The Voter Suppression Bill’ disproportionately impacts Black voters,” the lawsuit states.

“(It) interacts with these vestiges of discrimination in Georgia to deny Black voters (an) equal opportunity to participate in the political process and/or elect a candidate of their choice.” 

Georgia, which hadn’t voted for a Democrat for president since Bill Clinton in 1992, was among the states that flipped from voting for Trump in 2016 to voting for Democrat Joe Biden in 2020.

And as further evidence that Red State Georgia might be trending purple, on Jan. 5, Georgia voters surprisingly elected two new Democratic U.S. Senators:

• Raphael Warnock, in a special election to replace a senator who had resigned, and will have to face re-election in 2022; and

• Jon Ossoff, for a full six-year term, lasting through 2026.         

That had the welcome result for the national Democrats of giving them a 50-50 tie in the Senate.

With the tie-breaking vote of the Senate’s presiding officer, Democratic Vice-President Kamala Harris, that puts the Democrats in razor-thin control – at least enough to name committee chairs, and have at least marginal influence over other organizational perks.         

Kemp, up for reelection in 2022, had refused to go along with Trump’s demands following the Nov. 3 election that he overturn Biden’s victory -- earning Trump’s public condemnation. 

But on Thursday, Kemp said “alarming issues” with the 2020 election demonstrated the need for more voting security.

He predicted critics of the new law “will threaten, boycott, sue, demonize and team up with their friends in the national media to call me everything in the book.”

Meanwhile, apparently a national GOP plan has Republican legislators in other states that are Republican, or Republican-leaning -- including Texas -- considering more than 250 bills to insure “election integrity” – or “suppress Democratic voters” -- take your pick.

 

Contact McNeely at davemcneely111@gmail.com.

Mobile 512-751-3540.

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