Governor Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 202 on March 24 of this year, and nothing but controversy has ensued since. NewsWeek’s Scott Dworkin, Executive Director of the Democratic Coalition, refers to SB 202 as the “new voter suppression law” and like many others, declares the bill’s new provisions to be oppressive, specifically targeting minority voters. Multiple groups such as the NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, the League of Women Voters of Georgia, and leaders of various Latino Community organizations are taking a stand against this bill. Claiming this new bill practices intentional discrimination against minority voters across the state, they are demanding immediate action be taken by Congress to prevent further damage to Georgia voters and democracy as a whole.
The Georgia State Legislature and Governor Kemp are now in the hot seat; fielding questions, asserting their innocence, and standing their ground when it comes to SB 202. A myriad of prominent individuals, organizations, and activists including former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, President Joe Biden, celebrities, athletes, and leaders from organizations like Apple, Bank of America, Delta Airlines, and Coca-Cola have spoken out or taken action regarding this new bill and its negative impact on voters, specifically minority voters, in the state of Georgia.
President Biden, when briefed on the situation in Georgia, released his official statement where he called the bill “Un-American”, a “disgrace”, and “Jim-Crow 2.0.” While on the other hand, Kemp has adamantly defended the bill, and indicated that SB 202 was not racially motivated, restrictive of any particular people group, and was specifically “designed to maintain election integrity”. Well, since the United States is theoretically a government of the people, by the people, and for the people; let’s see what the people (you) decide, shall we?
SB 202 radically changed many rules, regulations, protocols, and procedures that surround voting rights, election policies, and polling place practices. Here’s a breakdown of what you, as a voter, need to know about Senate Bill 202. On July 1, 2021, voting practices, provisional ballots, election boards, run-off periods, voting requirements, and more will all be affected by this new bill.
SB 202 dictates that once in effect, mobile polling places, utilized in the 2020 presidential election, which allowed the votes of over 11,000 citizens to be cast, are now essentially banned; barring Governor Kemp declaring a state of emergency, which then, and only then, allows them to be utilized.
The 98-page bill also includes the criminalization of third-party distribution of refreshments to voters waiting in line to cast their vote. In immensely populated areas like DeKalb, Fulton, Cobb, and Gwinnett counties, voters in the 2020 presidential election reported waiting in line to vote for 6-8 hours in some cases. Local charities, churches, and community organizations provided cold beverages and small snacks to fatigued voters. This is now considered a misdemeanor offense, punishable with up to a year in prison and a $1000 fine.
In the event you are unsure of the location of your polling place precinct, the location changed or closed without your knowledge or you mistakenly show up to the wrong precinct, it will now be even more difficult to cast your ballot. In the past, if you arrived at the wrong polling place to cast your ballot, you were permitted to cast a provisional ballot that would then be vetted by election officials to ensure voter eligibility before counting your vote. Now, however, SB 202 disregards that practice and states that voters arriving at the incorrect precinct are not permissibly able to cast a provisional ballot but must travel to their designated polling place. This adds yet another barrier to voters who work long and odd hours.
Perhaps the most concerning provision in this category are the changes made to the State Election Board. Prior to this new bill, the Georgia Secretary of State, who reserved voting power as a member of the State Elections Board, is now removed from the process entirely. The primarily Republican-controlled board is now granted the liberty to take over at the county level. This allows the state to challenge voter eligibility, polling place practices, and permits the state to interfere with election processes at the county level without the need to prove justifiable cause.
Senate Bill 202 also changes how election run-off periods take place; in the event of run-off elections, the voting period has been abbreviated from nine weeks to a mere four. Voting, early and/or in-person has also received its fair share of adjustments in light of this new bill, which includes additional restrictions to early in-person voting.
Limiting their efficacy and efficiency, Kemp’s signature on the recently passed SB 202 now mandates that drop-boxes, used to house ballots cast early, must be housed inside voting locations. Additionally, access to these drop-boxes is limited to between 9am-5pm. In regard to absentee and mail-in voting, voters will now be required to adhere to more strict regulations. Absentee ballots, formerly sent out on a widespread basis by election officials, are now illegal. Voters who wish to vote absentee will now be required to go through the proper channels of requesting one, the amount of time to request an absentee ballot has also been condensed.
You may find yourself asking, “What’s the big deal, how is that racist?” If you don’t yet understand, let me suggest this: Look down at your skin, if you happen to see any shade, tone, or hue of white — consider checking your privilege. While the Senate Bill may not explicitly spell out word for word “we don’t want black or brown people to vote,” with a little bit of historical context, anyone can learn to read between the lines. Allow me to demonstrate:
So, as we all know by now, despite false accusations, unsubstantiated fraud claims, and adamant denial to the contrary, Democratic candidate Joe Biden, was the victor of the 2020 presidential election. Historically a red state, Georgia was flipped to blue in the most recent election, which to put it nicely, threw Republicans for a loop. As mentioned earlier, select politicians, voters, and supporters allied with the Republican party, suggested widespread voter fraud, stolen votes, and other outlandish claims were what led to Biden’s victory. Claims which still have been unsubstantiated by any real evidence. So, what was the real reason for Biden’s victory, and how does that have anything to do with SB 202?
Statistically speaking, African Americans make up roughly 1/3 (33%) of Georgia’s population, and of that demographic, 88% of black voters supported Joe Biden in the polling place, Voter showed up to the polls in record numbers for the 2020 election, more specifically, minority voters participated in the 2020 election, at a higher rate than any other election in history.
Having a long and dark history of legislation intended to disenfranchise black voters, it doesn’t take a political science genius to figure this one out. Historically, the longest lines at polling locations have been in black or non-white neighborhoods. According to the Scientific American, primarily black neighborhoods were 75% more likely to have to wait in line at least an hour, and had to wait 29% longer than their white counterparts at any given time.
Furthermore, Atlanta’s metropolitan areas, such as Gwinnett, Cobb, Fulton, and Dekalb counties, have seen exponential growth in minority voter turnouts in recent years, but have consistently reduced the number of polling places in primarily non-white voting districts. An unlikely coincidence. This tends to result in shamefully long lines at voting locations in primarily non-white neighborhoods, where wait times during the 2020 election extended up to eight hours at some locations — and now it’s illegal to even pass out water to those patiently awaiting the opportunity to fulfill their civic duty. Lest we forget the mobile polling places were also banned, so not only can you not receive water while you wait for hours, your chance at avoiding a long wait in line is also unlikely.
The dwindling and closing of polling locations that take place in predominantly black neighborhoods have a tendency to be “miscommunicated” to the affected citizens in regard to where to cast their vote. In the past, if you showed up to the wrong precinct it wasn’t a big deal, you could cast a provisional ballot, well not anymore!
In addition to restrictions and revisions on the availability and accessibility of polling places, SB 202 does not require polling places to be open on Sundays, which, conveniently enough, happens to conflict with the common practice in which ministers of black churches lead their congregations to the polls to vote.
In the 2020 election, a vast majority of non-white voters elected to cast their votes via absentee or mail-in ballot. If you recall, absentee and mail-in voting were more heavily restricted with the passing of SB 202. While at first glance, requiring valid state ID doesn’t seem to be unreasonable; the timing is questionable considering recent events and the statistical data indicating that minorities are less likely to have the specified valid forms of identification.
It’s all just very convenient isn’t it, purely coincidental that almost every new restriction put in place can be directly linked with the strong influence non-whites had on the 2020 election? Sure, it also will affect other voters from other demographics, no denying that, but have those voters been systemically suppressed, oppressed, disenfranchised, and dismissed throughout history and still today? I mean honestly, if you have any further questions, just look at the photo behind Gov. Kemp as he signed the bill. Ironically enough, it’s a painting of a plantation, in which Kimberly Wallace, an African American woman, recognized as the plantation her own ancestors worked on dating back to times of slave labor. A coincidence that may be, but damning evidence to those who understand the implications of Voter Suppression Law SB 202.