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Augusta Chronicle

Georgia Voting Bill Makes it Illegal to Hand Out Water

The bill is being denounced by labor who say the bill is bringing back Jim Crow

Brian Young's picture
Mar 26, 2021

Just a few months ago, voters in Georgia headed to the polls to deliver the state for President Joe Biden and in January elected two Democrats to the United States Senate. Those two Senators allowed Democrats to take control of the Senate. These two Senators were the deciding votes in getting the American Rescue Plan passed and will be pivotal in getting the PRO Act passed.

The 2020 election and subsequent runoff saw a huge turnout among Georgia’s black voters. Their turnout in the Atlanta area was the difference in both elections. For weeks after the election, Trump attacked the election as fraudulent and pressured Georgia officials to find the votes he needed to win.

With the prospect of a fired-up black voting base and Georgia state officials facing calls from Trump to suppress their vote, Georgia has passed a series of new laws to restrict voting access. The bill, known as S.B. 202, makes serious changes to how Georgians vote, including creating new, tougher, identification requirements for absentee voting, moving back the absentee ballot request deadline, making Sunday early voting when many black churches hold Souls to the Polls events optional for counties, preventing state and local governments from sending out unsolicited absentee ballot applications, shortening the time for a runoff election to four weeks from the current nine and making it illegal to pass out food or drinks to voters waiting in line to vote, although a self-serve water station would be allowed. The criminalization of handing out water and food was seen as especially egregious considering that the state had previously cut polling locations in many nonwhite areas of the state leading to exceedingly long lines to vote. The tougher ID requirements not only create another hurdle for people who choose to vote by mail but are also a historical tool used by white southerners to keep black people from voting.

SB 202 passed the Republican-controlled House and Senate and was signed in private by Governor Brian Kemp. As he signed it, one state lawmaker Rep. Park Cannon was arrested for knocking on the Governor’s door to gain access to the bill signing. In a scene more reminiscent of the 1960s in Georgia, Cannon was dragged away by white police officers and charged with two felonies. The arrest was live-streamed on Facebook and can be seen below.

Following the passage of the bill, many people have denounced the Republicans' move.

“Georgia Republicans have shown their true colors,” said Richard Trumka President of the AFL-CIO. “The rushed passage of S.B. 202 is no less than a full-blown assault on Georgians’ right to vote, one aimed at silencing working people of color across the state. Brian Kemp is openly dragging Georgia’s elections back to the Jim Crow era, from making it harder to register to vote to criminalize those who bring water to voters waiting at the polls. America’s labor movement will not stand by quietly, and we will continue fighting for a future in which every voter has free and fair access to the ballot. Working Georgians overcame enormous obstacles to win change in November and again in January. Organizing together, we can overcome this challenge as well.”

Union members and the Georgia AFL-CIO also descended on the Capitol to denounce the bill. Georgia AFL-CIO President Charlie Fleming said that SB 202 is “the most aggressively racist attack on voting rights in Georgia since Jim Crow.” He went on to say that the bill is an “all-out assault on working Georgians right to vote” and every eligible voter deserves the ability to easily vote by mail, dropbox, early voting, or vote on Election Day without having to wait for 10 hours in line.

President Biden also commented on the passage of the bill saying “This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end. We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act. I once again urge Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to make it easier for all eligible Americans to access the ballot box and prevent attacks on the sacred right to vote. If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.”

The For the People Act, also known as HR 1, would make it easier to vote nationwide and would standardize some election practices. The bill has passed the House and is now being considered by the Senate. It is also endorsed by the AFL-CIO who said earlier in the month after the bill passed the House, “If we fail to take action, our most fundamental freedoms will continue to be eroded. Yesterday's passage of the For the People Act is a critical step forward, and the labor movement calls on the Senate to quickly send this bill to President Biden’s desk. The American people are in a desperate struggle to preserve our right to free and fair elections, and this landmark legislation will give us the tools we need to defeat those seeking to gain power through intimidation, coercion, and suppression.”

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