On Monday, Georgia’s state Senate passed an omnibus bill that would devastate voting rights in a state that is already infamous for its voter suppression.
The legislation, formally known as Senate Bill 241, would severely restrict mail-in voting, allowing only the elderly, people with disabilities, and those out of town or observing a religious holiday on Election Day to receive absentee ballots. Poll workers and other election staff would also be eligible for an absentee ballot, as would people in the military or living overseas.
The measure would end what’s known as “no-excuse” absentee voting, a policy that’s been in place in Georgia for 16 years. Originally, it was Republicans’ idea—at the time, Democrats objected to it.
But now, having suffered significant losses in 2020, Republicans in the state are on a tear—as Jezebel’s Emily Alford once so perfectly put it—to ensure that no more fair elections happen on their watch from here on out.
“It’s pathetically obvious to anyone paying attention that when Trump lost the election and Georgia flipped control of the U.S. Senate to Democrats shortly after, Republicans got the message that they were in a political death spiral,” state Rep. Renitta Shannon, said last week during a floor debate over the legislation. “And now they are doing anything they can do to silence the voices of Black and brown voters specifically because they largely powered these wins.”
This all checks out. In the state House’s version of this legislation, Republicans stipulated that most counties could add “additional days and hours” to its early voting period—ostensibly to “standardize” it—but limited “larger, more diverse and Democratic-leaning counties” from doing the same, according to NPR. The House’s omnibus also added more voter ID requirements to absentee voting and sought to diminish the secretary of state’s power in elections (presumably because the state’s current one spoke out about being pressured to tip the Georgia ballot count toward Trump).
Still, the legislation isn’t as popular among Republicans as one would think. NPR reports that the omnibus bill “narrowly” passed in the Republican-controlled Senate, and that some state leaders in the party, like Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, are actually opposed to limiting absentee ballot eligibility.
But if this isn’t the voter suppression measure that passes, there are plenty of others for Republicans across the country to choose from: Since Biden’s victory, conservative lawmakers in 28 states have considered more than 100 laws that would restrict Americans’ voting rights. Like the one currently moving through Georgia’s state legislature, they primarily seek to achieve this end by restricting mail-in voting. On Monday, Georgia lawmakers also heard another proposal to end automatic voter registration in the state.
All of this is very bleak, but the CEO of Stacey Abrams’s voting rights organization, Fair Fight Action, said the group doesn’t plan on standing idly by while Republicans try to strip Georgia voters of their freedoms.
“This blatantly unconstitutional legislation will not go unchallenged,” CEO Lauren Groh-Wargo told CNN. “We will continue to fight in Georgia, in the courts, and in Congress to make sure that Georgians’ voting rights are not infringed.”