On Thursday, Georgia passed a sweeping slate of restrictive laws to tighten voting access in the state. The law, signed by Governor Brian Kemp, will broadly curtail the influence of Black voters who helped move the state blue in the 2020 presidential election and tipped a very tight Senate race for the Democrats earlier this year.
Kemp said moves like limiting the number of ballot drop boxes throughout the state and adding ID requirements to absentee ballots were aimed at “taking another step to making our elections fair and secure.” Among the provisions is a law against handing out food and water to people waiting in line to vote. It was unclear how such a measure will help prevent voter fraud.
The laws will also set up a “voter fraud hotline” and will grant the state election board the authority to step in and replace county election boards and challenge voter eligibility. These moves will effectively grant the state GOP broad powers over how elections are conducted, how voter roll purges are handled and whose ballot counts.
The law follows a handful of hotly watched state elections in Georgia with record turnouts that upended the traditionally Republican state, with former President Donald Trump reportedly pressuring state officials with baseless allegations of voter fraud.
Multiple federal and state investigations have found no evidence of any voter fraud at nearly the scale required to impact an election. That’s why activists across the country are blasting the new Georgia laws as suppression aimed at limiting access for traditionally Democratic voters, particularly in the Black community, which proved decisive for Democrats in the January runoff elections.
Fears that the laws would disproportionately affect Black voters were not exactly soothed when State Rep. Park Cannon was arrested and charged with a felony for the crime of knocking on Kemp’s door while he signed the bill into law. Local elected leaders expressed shock and outrage at Cannon’s arrest. “She was doing her job as an elected official,” Rep. Erica Thomas told the Journal-Constitution after the arrest. “She was asking where the governor was and where the bill was being signed.”
Cannon was visited in jail by her pastor and fellow elected leader, Rev. Senator Raphael Warnock who said he was “always ready to stand alongside you and get into some good trouble.”
“Why are you arresting her?” This Facebook Live video from @TWareStevens shows the moment authorities detained state Rep. Park Cannon as @GovKemp was behind those doors signing elections restrictions into law. #gapol pic.twitter.com/U1xMJ6tZrY
— Greg Bluestein (@bluestein) March 25, 2021