ATLANTA, Ga. March 8, 2021 – Today, the Georgia Senate passed on a 29-20 vote SB 241, another sweeping piece of legislation that will end no-excuse vote-by-mail, mandate new photo ID requirements, and create a “voter fraud” hotline that would increase opportunities for voter intimidation. The move follows the Georgia House of Representative’s passage of the other omnibus election changes bill HB 531 last week, which goes even further in restricting absentee and early voting — and includes a provision limiting weekend voting.
Nancy Abudu, deputy legal director for the SPLC Action Fund, issued the following statement in response to these recent votes:
Georgia Republican lawmakers continue to use dangerous conspiracy theories of voter fraud as an excuse for passing measures that would sharply restrict the freedom of voters — particularly Georgians of color — to safely and easily cast their ballots.
Georgia has spent the majority of its history systematically erecting barriers designed to dilute the power of Black voters — all to minimize their political voices on the issues that matter most to them. Decades of hard work by voting rights advocates across the state led to record turnout in 2020 despite the pandemic. The effect of HB 531 and SB 241 becoming law this year would clearly be to punish all voters and specifically disenfranchise Black Georgians, young voters, and people with disabilities.
To waste Georgia’s taxpayer dollars implementing bills in 2021 that may not pass constitutional muster is foolhardy, but appeasing extremists and conspiracy theorists clearly dictates Georgia Republican legislators’ priorities.
One of the most shameful developments has been the Republican legislators’ clear use of a deadly pandemic to abuse their power and rush through SB 241 in particular without proper public input. By not allowing remote testimony legislators were clearly making dangerous demands of their constituents, especially those with disabilities or pre-existing conditions. Protecting the well-being of Georgians should be senators’ foremost concern. Forcing constituents to risk their health to enter the Capitol and interact with maskless legislators and other members of the public just to defend their right to vote continues Georgia’s sad history when it comes to eroding civil rights.
A terrible process leads to terrible policy. While Republican leadership promised a legislative session of investigation, study, deliberation, and transparency into any election changes, Georgians have experienced none of those. Only after both omnibus bills had passed through relevant committees and public input was no longer an option did updated bill language appear online. That’s not how the legislative process should work.
Majority Leader Dugan – the sponsor of SB 241 – promised as recently as February 25 that he wanted a ‘collaborative effort.’ However, SB 241 was also rushed through committee hearings – some of which were scheduled in the 7am hour – with new versions of the bill being handed to his colleagues and fellow senators for review mere hours before committee sessions began.
As Georgia Republicans continue to stack the deck against voters for the remainder of session, we will remain dedicated to fighting every anti-voter bill considered and passed through either chamber. We urge Georgia voters to stay vigilant with us in this battle to protect our democracy.
This entire process indicates the clear, urgent need for federal oversight and passage of laws like the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act which would prevent the implementation of laws that only seek to target voters of color and make voting more difficult.
SPLC Action Fund is a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people. SPLC Action Fund is the 501(c)4 affiliate organization to the Southern Poverty Law Center. For more information, visit www.splcactionfund.org.