Vote Purges are Coming

William Barber II, co-chair of Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, challenges a crowd, as he so often does, about democracy and our commitment to one another. (giphy)

Voters in the 2020 presidential election and the 2021 runoff for the Georgia Senate put Democrats in charge of the White House and both chambers of Congress, even if by a very narrow Senate margin. Increased voter participation in those elections, particularly among Black and brown people, had much to do with those wins. Republican state legislators, apparently would like that to stop, pleas? SMH. 

As we write, many state legislatures are filling up with submitted bills, in preparation for their legislative sessions, and Republican lawmakers have included hundreds of documents targeting the election procedures and voter access that cost them the White House. 

Many of the bills include language allowing more voter intimidation at the polls by granting tough-looking weirdos increased poll watcher access, because nothing says safety like a musclebound dude peeking over your shoulder as you vote. Other bills include more spartan ballot receipt and postmark deadlines to better catch voters off guard with voting time limits. Other attempts include onerous signature matching requirements that are bound to get legitimate votes tossed into a waste can. Included in this anti-democratic slurry are new voter ID restrictions, such as the one in Mississippi that would eliminate the use of out-of-state drivers’ licenses. That bill, HB 543, would be a very clear blow to out-of-state students who overwhelmingly tend to vote Democrat. 

Mississippi Republican senators could not wait to restrict voting. One of the first bills they filed this session was HB 4, courtesy of GOP Reps. Brent Powell, Fred Shanks and Adam Calvert. That bill seeks to toss voters from rolls through new, more stringent voting requirements. One of the requirements includes having to have participated in an election within the last four years, even though not voting is still not illegal in any state in the nation. Other Mississippi bills include SB 2588, SB 2577 and HB 586 (for starters), which all require officials to compare voter rolls against information databases, including the Department of Public Safety database before allowing them to vote. Whether or not the information upon these databases is actually reliable is apparently not at issue. 

Mississippi Rep. Zakiya Summers, D-Jackson, called the new restrictive bills an infringement upon democracy. 

“The right to vote is guaranteed by the Constitution. HB 4 (use it or lose it purge) and HB 586 (citizenship proof) are voter disenfranchisement at its worst. This should not be a part of Mississippi’s history in 2021,” Summers said. 

The hits to democracy are also coming hard in Georgia, where Republican legislators are looking to curb absentee voting, after many absentee voters went Democrat and yanked the Senate from the GOP in January. One particular bill, Senate Bill 29, requires voters to make copies of their photo ID and mail them to election officials at least two times before they will be allowed to vote with an absentee ballot. The legislation, filed by Jason Anavitarte, who is—you guessed it—Republican, also imposes a photo ID requirement for voting outside of polling places and demands voters submit photo identification both when applying for absentee ballots and when returning them. 

“They lost, and now they want to change the rules to give themselves a competitive advantage,” House Minority Leader James Beverly, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “The pendulum swings, and people can see through this foolishness in the truest sense of suppression and disenfranchisement.” 

Republicans, as always, claim they are working to restrict voting in order to better protect it, and that it has absolutely nothing at all to do with the state failing to vote for a Republican president for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century. Honest. 

Pro-democracy group, the Brennan Center for Justice called the flurry of vote-killing bills an attack on democracy in America. 

“In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election, and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, legislators have introduced three times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to this time last year,” the Brennan Center said in a statement. “Twenty-eight states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 106 restrictive bills this year (as compared to 35 such bills in fifteen states on February 3, 2020).” 

According to the organization, which delivered a count of bills filed and pre-filed for the 2021 legislative session, Pennsylvania leads the nation in voter suppression legislation proposals, “with 14 restrictive policy proposals.” Of course, this has nothing to do with the state of Pennsylvania going to Biden after setting Republican hopefuls up with a “red mirage” that had them believing Trump had won the state. The “mirage” melted away as officials continued to count absentee votes over the following says. 

Yay democracy! Happy Black History Month. 

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