Georgia’s Jim Crow 2.0 Voting Bill Is So Much Worse Than You Think

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Laura Bassett
·4 min read
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Photo credit: Jessica McGowan - Getty Images
Photo credit: Jessica McGowan - Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

The scene was straight out of the Jim Crow South: Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, signed a sweeping voter suppression bill into law on Thursday that not-so-subtly takes aim at the Black vote, going so far as to criminalize bringing food and water to voters in line. He scrawled his signature on the legislation while sitting in front of a portrait of an actual slave plantation, surrounded by six white men, on the 56th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech at the culmination of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March for voting rights.

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Meanwhile, just outside the room, police arrested Democratic State Representative Park Cannon, a Black woman, and dragged her out of the state capitol for simply knocking on Kemp’s door and demanding to watch him sign the bill. All this *gestures wildly* because Republicans are angry that Georgia turned blue in the most recent presidential election and rejected Donald Trump, thanks in large part to Black voter turnout, and want to ensure that that can’t happen again.

In addition to criminalizing bringing food and water to voters in long lines (I mean, what???), the new law—which is the first in a broader national effort by the GOP to restrict voting in at least eight battleground states and make it easier for Republican candidates to win there—adds voter identification requirements, empowers Republican state officials to take over local election boards that they deem to be “underperforming,” moves up the deadline for absentee ballot requests, and limits the use of ballot drop boxes, all of which contribute to disenfranchising Black voters.

The whole power grab, while perhaps shocking in its openly racist optics, is not actually surprising by the standards of today’s GOP. Republican lawmakers have cleared the way for legislation like this to pass in the name of “election integrity” by amplifying the Big Lie that Democrats stole the 2020 election from Trump by cheating. Frankly, the only reason Kemp had the power to sign bills in the first place is that he very narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams in the 2018 gubernatorial race after purging hundreds of thousands of voter registrations and engaging in massive textbook voter suppression tactics.

That effort backfired on Republicans, and so could this one—if we (that means you, us, everyone you know) try hard enough. Abrams’ wildly successful voting rights group Fair Fight, which was instrumental in the drive to turn out Georgia voters in 2020, has vowed to organize even harder to fight back against this new bill, which the organization called “Jim Crow 2.0.”

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“It will make what we all lived through in 2020 child’s play,” Lauren Groh-Wargo, CEO of the group, told reporters this week. “Donald Trump won’t have to strong-arm our election administrators. The most radical fringes of the Republican Party sitting in the state legislature will be able to wipe out boards of elections, challenge voters because they don’t have the right name according to them or they don’t look the way they think they should look.”

Biden called the bill “sick” and said he will “encourage and engage with” voting rights groups considering legal challenges. Meanwhile, Democrats in the House and Senate are pushing for a massive voting rights bill that would block efforts by red states to suppress the vote, and a big public outcry over what happened in Georgia may push even the most moderate Democrats to get on board with eliminating the filibuster so they can pass the bill without 60 votes in the Senate.

There are not two reasonable sides to this issue, in the same way that segregated buses and water fountains would not be debatable today. The ability of every person to vote is nonnegotiable in a democracy, and we all have to help fight for it now. Call your congresspeople. Support organizations like Fair Fight.

If Republicans want to win elections, they’re going to have to find a way to do so that doesn’t rely on disenfranchising people.

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