One week after Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana repeatedly cut off voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams as she tried to explain her objections to the voter suppression law recently passed by GOP lawmakers in Georgia, Abrams on Tuesday shared an uninterrupted video in which she outlined how specific provisions of Senate Bill 202 restrict Democratic-leaning constituencies’ access to the ballot.
During a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week on voting rights, Kennedy asked Abrams to “give me a list of the provisions that you object to.”
Abrams began to list several anti-democratic components of the new law. She expressed her opposition to provisions that: remove access to the right to vote; shorten the federal runoff period from nine weeks to four weeks; and restrict the time that a voter can request and return an absentee ballot application—before being interrupted by Kennedy.
She went on to mention that the law “eliminates over 300 hours of drop box availability” and “bans nearly all out-of-precinct votes.” In addition, Abrams noted, enabling counties to adopt a 9:00 am to 5:00 pm voting window instead of using the previous statewide standard of 7:00 am to 7:00 pm limits the franchise, especially for working-class individuals “who cannot vote during business hours.”
After just a couple of minutes, Kennedy “threw in the towel,” as political reporter Greg Bluestein put it in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Okay, I get the idea. I get the idea,” said the Republican senator.
But Abrams, the founder of a voting rights group called Fair Fight Action, hadn’t finished.
On Tuesday, Abrams tweeted a nearly six-minute video that describes additional provisions that she and other progressive critics of Senate Bill 202 say will make it harder for Georgians—particularly those living in communities of color where Democratic candidates enjoy much stronger support than their Republican counterparts—to vote.
“I know we got cut off before, so let me continue,” she began on Tuesday.
In the video, Abrams provides a thorough account of the anti-democratic features of the new Georgia law, which she says:
- criminalizes the distribution of water or food to voters waiting in long lines;
- “codifies voter caging, meaning that an individual can challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters in their county”;
- removes Georgia’s secretary of state from the state’s board of elections;
- authorizes the state Legislature to appoint a majority of members on the state’s board of elections, “stacking it with their allies”;
- allows the state’s board of elections to unilaterally replace local election officials;
- limits the number and location of ballot drop boxes;
- requires voters without a driver’s license or state ID to “surrender their personal information and risk identity theft just to receive an absentee ballot”;
- reduces the time frame to request an absentee ballot by 109 days and stops the request period 11 days before the election;
- bans mobile voting units used by 11,000 elderly and disabled voters last year in Fulton County;
- sets a new minimum standard of just eight hours for early voting;
- prohibits early voting locations from operating outside of specific hours; and
- “eliminates the online absentee ballot request portal, forcing county boards to manually enter every application.”
The new video also has clips from Abrams’ interaction with Kennedy last week, including when the senator asked, “Is that everything?”
“Nope!” Abrams responded Tuesday. “With all due respect, I’m not done yet, senator.”
Abrams pointed out that GOP lawmakers attempted to include even more restrictive measures in earlier versions of Senate Bill 202.
“Let’s not forget that Republicans wanted to eliminate Sunday voting, but we stopped them,” Abrams said. “And Republicans wanted to eliminate no excuses absentee voting, but we stopped them. And Republicans wanted to eliminate automatic voter registration.”
“But, wait for it, we stopped them,” she added.
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Senate Bill 202—which Georgia’s Republican lawmakers and Gov. Brian Kemp have characterized as an attempt to “restore confidence in the integrity of the state’s electoral system”—is part of the GOP’s nationwide attack on voting. As of March 24, legislators had introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
In addition to Georgia, voter suppression bills have been signed into law in Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, and Utah.
Mother Jones journalist Ari Berman, a voting rights expert, has argued that in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s failed attempt to reverse the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, state-level Republicans are “weaponizing Trump’s lies” about fraud in an attempt to roll back voting rights following last year’s historic turnout.
While the GOP has attempted to justify its increasingly extreme voter suppression push by appealing to the need to strengthen “election integrity”—even though President Joe Biden’s victory came in an election the federal government’s top cybersecurity official called “the most secure in American history”—right-wing figures have on more than one occasion admitted the real reason they are opposed to making voting more accessible is because doing so hurts Republicans’ electoral chances.
“If we don’t do something about voting by mail, we’re going to lose the ability to elect a Republican in this country,” Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News host Sean Hannity last November.
In Tuesday’s video, meanwhile, Abrams noted that “in Fulton County, our largest county and one that is predominantly African American, the number of drop boxes will be reduced from 38 to eight for no good reason other than Republicans want to make it harder for people of color to vote.”
Last month, Biden signed an executive order promoting access to the polls, while House Democrats, without the support of a single Republican, passed the For the People Act, a sweeping set of popular pro-democracy reforms.
Voting rights advocates say that Senate Democrats can “thwart virtually every single one” of the GOP’s voter suppression bills by passing the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. If Senate Republicans try to stand in the way, progressives say, the Democratic-led Congress will need to eliminate the 60-vote filibuster rule.