“We are watching a nationwide sweep of voter suppression that is not only abysmal, it is counter to who we say we are as Americans,” voting rights advocacy leader Stacey Abrams said in an interview with MSNBC’s Joy Reid on Monday (March 1).
Abrams was referring to the new legislative measures making their way through state governments in Georgia, Florida, and Arizona, that could impose limits on voting, and disproportionately impact Black voters and other marginalized groups.
“If you increase the photo ID requirements, there are millions of Americans who simply cannot meet those requirements because the underlying paperwork that they have to have either doesn’t exist, is too expensive, or is too complicated to access,” Abrams said. “We know that again and again these laws are designed for one specific purpose and this is to discourage or prevent people from voting,” she added.
The bills being proposed by state legislators have included increasing identification requirements, limiting the number of ballot drop boxes in jurisdictions, and decreasing the time a voter can request an absentee ballot, these measures, Abrams said, are “post-Reconstruction Jim Crow-era laws –– and that’s not hyperbolic.”
Abrams has spearheaded efforts to increase access to voting across the country, and especially in Georgia where she is credited with having registered nearly a million new voters in the state over the course of ten years.
Her efforts, along with a network of local and state organizers, flipped Georgia blue in November’s election, effectively giving control to Democrats.
The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to remove the part of the Voting Rights Act that required state and local governments to get approval from the Justice Department has empowered Republican-backed bills to impose these restrictions.
In Georgia, the state House of Representatives passed House Bill 531 that restrictions vote counting, in-person voting, and absentee ballots. According to the Huffington Post, it also makes giving food or drink to a person waiting in line to vote a misdemeanor crime if it’s within 150 feet of the polling location. The bill is going to the state’s Senate for further deliberation.
Florida’s requirement of people who’ve been convicted of felonies to pay off their fees before being eligible to vote has been compared to a poll tax, similar to the one passed right after the 15th Amendment was ratified and gave all men, regardless of race, the right to vote.
These policies are “essentially pushing people, millions of people, across the country, mainly Black and Brown people, out of the voting process,” Abrams said during the interview.
Abrams is advocating for the restoration of the voting rights of Americans through the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act which would reimpose protections found within the Voting Rights Act.
“When you can win elections not by having the best ideas but by stealing the right to vote then you do not deserve to win and you do not deserve the right to participate,” Abrams said.
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