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More than 150 people attend virtual forum about Georgia voter suppression legislation

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More than 150 people attend virtual forum about Georgia voter suppression legislation

Closeup of the Georgia State Capitol. Photo by Connor Carey. Source: Wikimedia Commons
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Decatur, GA — Members of the DeKalb House and Senate Delegation in a virtual forum on Feb. 23 called voters to fight legislation that Democrats labeled hastily-drafted attempt at voter suppression.

DeKalb native Vasu Abhiraman, Policy Counsel with ACLU of Georgia, broke down current legislation in the Georgia House of Representatives to more than 150 constituents on the call.

Abhiraman explained that less than a week ago, State Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, introduced House Bill 531 and rushed it through four hearings in four days – a highly unusual move that caught the attention of elected officials and voters’ rights groups throughout the state.

As it is currently written, HB 531 will move ballot drop boxes indoors, eliminate “Souls to the Polls” Sunday in-person voting, require a photo ID for absentee votes and several other measures that will make it harder to vote. One section of the bill makes looking at another voter’s ballot a felony.

In the chat, DeKalb Democrats volunteer Nancy Larson said, “In addition to making it difficult for everyone who works during the week by eliminating all Saturdays but one and all Sundays, it would put more stress on the polling locations and workers to have to process crowds on that one Saturday — especially with the increased restrictions on absentee ballots.”

Martha Pacini, also commented in the chat that Orthodox Jews, who observe the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday, would also be left out by elimination of Sunday voting.

By the time the bill gets to the Georgia Senate, said Rep. Billy Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain, it could be the “wild, wild west.”

“What’s going to pass in the House is going to mild as opposed to what is going to be added to this bill later on,” Mitchell said. “I’m just hopeful the new Justice Department will come after them vigorously.”

What attendees wanted to know, however, was what to do before the bill gets out of the House.

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, said the best way to fight Republican legislation is with Republican voters. Find the cousin, coworker, or friend from college living in a heavily Republican county who is willing to have a conversation about politics.

“I feel very strongly that we’ve got to energize our Republican friends who are fair minded people,” Oliver said.

“I would add that a lot of these provisions are going to harm also Republican voters,” said Rep. Bee Ngyuen, D-Atlanta. “Historically, Republicans have used absentee ballot voting in higher numbers every single year, with the exception of 2020 because we were facing a pandemic. That law was put into place to make it easy for rural voters because precincts are spread far apart … and for older voters. When you think about who is going to be impacted by these laws, it’s not just Democratic voters.”

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