Earlier this year, Georgia passed Senate Bill 202, more commonly known as The Election Integrity Act of 2021. While this bill was praised by conservatives as being a crucial step in resecuring an electoral system that allowed the 2020 presidential election to be stolen, others claim that this legislature is retaliation for democrats winning the majority in Georgia, and directly attacks the protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While this legislature is known as the Election Integrity Act, it does quite the opposite: it restricts the ability of people to vote. Under claims of helping to strengthen our democracy and electoral system, this legislature, and bills like it are a direct threat to our democracy.
The most prominent changes made in the act are those to absentee voting. It reduces the time frame for requesting absentee ballots from six months before the election to three, tightening the request deadline from 4 days before the election to 11, and bans absentee ballots from being sent without a request. In order to request a ballot, you must provide a state ID number, such as a driver’s license number. Restrictions on ballot drop boxes were extremely restricted, reducing the total number of possible drop boxes in metro Atlanta, and requiring them to be inside a building where access is only available certain hours. Even with the big push towards in person voting, they also made it illegal to hand out food or water to those waiting in line at polling places. (The Washington Post)
While all of these changes may seem like minor inconveniences, they disproportionately affect people in urban areas and people of color. These laws make it harder for those that lack transportation, access to state IDs, and depended on copious options for exercising their constitutional right to vote. The guise of securing a rigged election system, started by claims of election fraud by Donald Trump, is in fact an attempt to choke out the voting rights of the population that gave Democrats the lead in the elections in 2020. “This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end,” Biden said in the statement, noting how the restrictions disproportionately target Black voters, who proved crucial to recent Democratic victories in Georgia (CNN).
The provision on IDs is almost directly aimed at minorities. The biggest problem at hand, is people of color are less likely to interact with institutions that would require the documentation that is now being required to pass an absentee ballot. “Overall, about 3.5% of Georgia’s 7.8 million registered voters are missing a driver’s license or state ID number, according to records obtained from the secretary of state’s office under Georgia’s open records law. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution analyzed the state’s list of voters without ID by comparing it with their registration information, including race, address and voting history. More than half are Black. Most live in large, Democratic-leaning counties. Some are homeless or poor. And roughly 80,000 of them actually may have IDs but their information isn’t yet matched to election data, an issue state election officials are working to correct.” (AJC)
This blatant manipulation of our electoral system has caught the attention of the federal government, who has since launched an investigation into the legality of this new law. “The right to vote is one of the most central rights in our democracy and protecting the right to vote for all Americans is at the core of the Civil Rights Division’s mission,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice will use all the tools it has available to ensure that each eligible citizen can register, cast a ballot, and have that ballot counted free from racial discrimination. Laws adopted with a racially motivated purpose, like Georgia Senate Bill 202, simply have no place in democracy today” (Department of Justice).
Republicans in other states have passed similar laws, such as Texas Senate Bill 1, which is strikingly similar to the aforementioned act in Georgia. This act also adds more identification requirements for absentee votes, puts more restrictions on early voting, bans 24-hour voting locations, and restricts who can help voters with disabilities. This month the Justice Department released a statement that they are filing suit under Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act and Section 101 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Examples of legislators cracking down on a “rigged” electoral system continue to pop up across the country.
When learning about democratic erosion, you see examples of countries across the globe and how their democracies have sputtered or even failed, and it feels distant. The more you learn about how this happened, the warning signs, the chaos, and the recovery, it heightens your defenses when it comes guarding the democracy here in America, which would seem redundant in a country built on the principles of democracy. Seeing such a blatant attack on democracy so close to home intensifies my fears and serves as evidence of democratic erosion in our country.
Daniel, you make a compelling argument that this act encourages voter suppression, but there are a few points I do not see eye to eye with you on and maybe could use some clarification. For example, in your second paragraph you assert that making less ballot drop boxes is an example of this. Although I am obviously all for having as many drop boxes as possible and facilitating this process, there must be people working to monitor these to make sure people do not over submit or steal ballots. This could be the reason for the buildings only being open for certain times because they need to pay the workers. Moreover, the extent to which absentee ballots were counted in the last election was far higher than in any other election in American history. Was every election throughout our countries history unfair because they did not offer absentee thus restricting voters?
Another aspect of your argument I am having trouble understanding is how making people present ID’s to vote disproportionately affects people of color. Are you asserting that we ought to not require identification of voters who seek to use absentee ballots? If this is what you are pushing for, how do we stop people from voting multiple times? It seems that voter fraud would be through the roof if we did not require identification. On top of this, getting a drivers license or form of identification is free at any DMV. Of course this is hard for people with a lack of transportation, but it is not difficult to obtain identification if one seeks it. The only fix to this situation that can be interpreted would be not requiring identification, which is clearly not the route we ought to take.
While I agree with you that we should facilitate voting, I have to disagree with your assertions that requiring voter ID is negative. Perhaps your best point throughout the article comes at the end of this paragraph though where you cite the part of the act making it illegal to pass out food and water. Food could make sense because you do not want partisan members trying to bribe voters with food, but not allowing water to be passed out is inexcusable.
Ensuring the people do not steal ballots can be done via security camera and does not require ballot boxes to be inside buildings or constrained to certain hours. Irregardless of that fact, constraining the ballot boxes to certain hours disproportionately affects working class people who cannot necessarily get off work to submit a ballot. If the boxes were open 24 hours, more people would be able to vote, which is only good. It also would require negligible additional cost because they do not all require in person monitoring. In regards to making sure ballots aren’t over submitted, that would work the same way it always does. Ballots are matched to voter records and election officials make sure that there is only one ballot per registered voter. The ballot boxes location and access does not affect this.
Yes more absentee ballots were counted this election than ever before. That does not mean every election before was unfair, but counting more absentee ballots does make it more fair because it makes it easier to vote, which again, is always good.
I will say that not having a voter ID law does have its issues. It is easier to impersonate a voter without voter ID laws. However, not having a voter ID law does not mean people can vote twice. The ballot still has to be matched with a voter registration. If there are multiple ballots for the same voter registration, election officials with notice the anomaly.
Hey Daniel! I really enjoyed reading this post; I was vaguely aware of Senate Bill 202 when it first came around, but the lack of clarity on it in the media caused it to slip out of consciousness. This post has really helped clear up the questions I had about the bill and reduces any legal jargon down to an easy to read level. The restrictions on sending out and in absentee ballots is ridiculous and too far; depending on where a person lives relative to Georgia- assuming their permanent residence is still in the state- it can take longer than a request acceptance to get a ballot on both ends. What is particularly jarring is that this bill was written only after a large turnout of absentee voters. I personally used an absentee ballot to vote in the presidential election because, while I live in Georgia, the trip it would take to vote in my hometown is often too arduous for a one day trip. This bill could truly hurt absentee voters for absolutely unnecessary reasons. The most sinister aspect of the bill, though, comes from the banning of handing out food and water at polling precincts. I understand the reasoning behind it when it comes to political parties- it could come off as buying a vote- but is it impossible to find nonpartisan groups to hand out food? Poll workers could do it easily without trying to buy votes with food. In urban areas like Atlanta, lines are long and precincts are overwhelmed, so with wait times as long as they are just to vote, I can’t understand the reasoning any further. Lack of transport is another issue I didn’t even consider; absentee ballots are beneficial to those who can’t get away from their jobs to vote or don’t have the means to get there. I actually don’t think I realized how passionate I was about this topic until reading your post, so thanks! Great post!
This blog post provided a very clarifying evaluation of Senate Bill 202. The awareness of the impact this bill will have is disheartening. Acknowledging its faults is crucial to the integrity of democracy in the United States, as well as to those affected by it. Like Reece stated, the restrictions put into place regarding absentee ballots are too far and allow for manipulation of voter validity as it often takes much longer than a voting period to get a ballot request acceptance. The notion to illegalize handing out food and water at polling stations almost feels like a dystopian law; it is aggressively disappointing to know that many people agree on a legislative level that the right to vote not only can be manipulated but also that it doesn’t come with the right to perform necessary actions while in the voting process. Your post helped me consider many other crucial issues that come to light upon the passage of this bill. Transporation and accessibility to polls have been an issue since polling existed, and the heavy restrictions on absentee ballots do not provide a valid solution but rather elevate the issue. It is also disheartening to be aware of the strategic placement of accessible centers in order to influence an election. While lawmakers aim to convince the general public that they have their best interest in mind, it is concerning how directly they are implementing their unfair goals and tactics.
Hi, Daniel! I recently watched the documentary All In: The Fight For Democracy and it was extremely enlightening on the voting obstructions you raised in your post, especially on the subject of voter ID laws. There does seem to be a bias in some states surrounding what qualifies as a valid ID, with some states allowing gun licenses to serve as verified identification while barring school ID’s from a state university. Sure, identification cards can obtained through the DMV, but even that process isn’t a great equalizer, with lack of access to transportation being the least of the issues. You would still need to produce something like a birth certificate or social security card to obtain one, which serves to further disenfranchise older voters born under Jim Crow and denied such documents. The same goes for something as innocuous as required a physical home address. While it seems like a simple ask, it can serve to disenfranchise reservation residents who instead use a P.O. box as their listed address. I think these serve as two examples of how insidious some of the language we find in these bills can be. They, at first glance, make perfect sense when attempting to combat voter fraud, but when faced with the rarity of actual voter fraud one has to wonder why these barriers are being put into place. Other restrictions like distributing food or water are just inhumane when paired with shuttered polling locations and outrageous hours-long lines. Restrictions on absentee voting, ballot request timelines, and drop box hours are more likely to adversely affect low-income voters or those who are bound to work schedules or childcare and it feels like a way to shape a voting bloc. Great post!!
Hi Daniel, very nice post. The way you lay out the issues with SB 202 is very well done, and I have to agree with the majority (if not all) of your conclusions. However, I wanted to bring a little more attention to an angle that you did not thoroughly discuss within your post. That is, I think talking about SB 202 as an almost isolated attempt at suppression misses the most interesting part of the bill: it being part of a wider response to the 2020 election. For me, I don’t see this act as some random incident of voter suppression, I see this as a continuation of the same efforts to undermine our democracy that started last year and culminated violently in the storming of the Capital on the 6th.
I believe SB 202 is just one part of a wider effort to undermine American democracy, and I think it is no coincidence that the other similar bill you mention is from Texas, another hotly contested swing state in the 2020 election. It is also worth noting that every single state has introduced election related legislation this year. I feel this indubitably points to many of these bills as being in direct response to the results of the previous election, and as part of a continuous attempt to erode and undermine American democracy.
Finally, I’m curious to get your thoughts on what should be done moving forward. For the time being, it doesn’t look like arguments over election rules are going to go away anytime soon. With that being said, what kind of election reforms/legislation would you support? Do you think such legislation would be necessary at all? Do you think that perhaps it is time to update or even create a new and improved Voting Rights Act?
Hey Daniel, your post was interesting to read regarding the Election Integrity Act of 2021, but there are some points that just do not add up from reading the bill itself and doing a bit of research. You state that SB 202 “restricts the ability of people to vote.” However, SB 202 actually expands access to early voting by having a mandatory Saturday to vote early in all 159 counties in the State of Georgia. I think we both can agree that expanding early voting statewide is not restricting the ability of people to vote. Your statement that SB 202 made it “illegal to hand out food or water to those waiting in line at polling places” is misleading and partially false because Section 33 of SB 202 allows for election officials, often poll workers, to provide water to voters. SB 202 also actually makes absentee ballot drop boxes part of state law and now requires all counties to have at least one dropbox. This part of the bill made it easier for citizens to vote and was something that was not required a year ago. Another great thing about SB 202 is that it makes the electoral process more transparent and harder to cheat. Poll watchers are now to be trained and can serve in adjoining counties. Local officials are now required to report the number of ballots that were casted during early voting, absentee voting, and on election day by 10:00 p.m. on election night. I also think that having 11 weeks to request an absentee ballot should be enough time ad should not be taken as something vastly negative. Having Voter ID laws is supported by most Americans, including 60% of Democrats. In Conclusion, I do not think that The Election Integrity Act of 2021 should be considered as ‘Jim Crow in the 21st Century’ as Biden says, and voters should read the bill for themselves to get the truth.