A controversial new election law was passed in the US state of Georgia this Thursday (March 25), aiming to suppress the Democratic vote. Measures include a ban on handing water to queuing voters.
The bill was passed by a Republican majority of 100-75 in the state House and 34-20 in the state Senate. Among the law’s new requirements is the need for photo ID when voting by absentee mail, a method used by 1.3 million Georgians in the 2020 election. The law also reduces the time people have to request an absentee ballot, as well as where and when drop boxes can be accessed.
This appears to be a deliberate effort to supress Democrat voters, after high turnout saw a Democrat victory in both the presidential election and two Senate runoffs, in what was once a solidly Republican state. “We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we’ve seen since the Jim Crow era,” Democratic state Senate minority leader Gloria Butler said.
President Biden has also criticised the bill. In his first news conference as president, Biden vowed to block the law, calling it “un-American” and “sick”. Republican Representative Jan Jones has defended the new measures however, arguing that reducing the time in which one has to request an absentee ballot will “increase the likelihood of a voter’s vote being cast successfully.”
The most worrying change to the state election process is the replacement of the elected secretary of state, who chairs the state election board, with one appointed by the legislature. Said election board has now been granted the power to replace county election officials for underperformance. It is clear that these measures are meant to ensure a partisan election board, empowered to remove officials it deems unfavourable.
Republican representative Barry Fleming, who helped craft the law, said these changes are only a “temporary fix, so to speak, that ends and the control is turned back over to the locals after the problems are resolved.”
Philip English, is a member of the YCL’s Manchester Branch