OPEN LETTER TO GOP LEGISLATORS AND GOVERNOR BRIAN KEMP
COALITION OF BLACK LEADERS CALLS FOR WIDESPREAD CONDEMNATION OF GEORGIA’S NEW VOTER SUPPRESSION LAW
We see through you, Georgia GOP and Governor Brian Kemp. Most of the nation does, too. We are angered by your misrepresentation of your motive for changing election rules.
We see your actions for what they are: a desperate power grab and blind allegiance to the “Big Lie” propagated by the former president who was caught on tape attempting to rob Georgia voters and the entire country of a free and fair election.
There was no widespread voter fraud in the November 2020 General Election or the January 2021 Runoff in Georgia. This fact is evidenced over and over by multiple recounts, failed lawsuits, and your own party’s Secretary of State and Homeland Security standing by the legitimate and accurate execution and counts for the elections of 2020 and 2021.
Your voter suppression bill makes it even more urgent for a renewed national Voting Rights Act to save democracy for us all. More urgent for businesses big and small to join the outcry against your actions. There will be economic and other consequences. And we will work even harder to ensure that every eligible voter can vote!
Senate Bill 202 hampers democracy and makes it more difficult for people to exercise their constitutional rights to vote for the candidates they choose. You call it “election reform” when what the bill does is indeed everything Republicans purport to stand against – the removal of local control and undermining the will of the people.
While there are many issues with the bill, below are some of the most egregious attacks against our participatory democracy:
The takeover of the State Election Board, kneecapping the duly elected secretary of state.
The takeover of the secretary of state’s office, allowing the state legislature to direct control over the SOS’s employees.
The takeover of local county elections offices, robbing county leaders and county elections boards of a say in their own processes.
Curtailing access to voting by absentee ballot by 40 percent, which impacts every Georgia voter.
Blocking corporations, athletes, nonprofit organizations and others from a public-private-partnership with county elections offices to increase early voting sites, provide snacks for voters waiting in long lines and other pro-democracy efforts to ensure equitable, convenient access to the ballot box.
These laws hurt every Georgia voter but they especially target the voting power of Black and Brown people and working-class voters who made the difference in the 2020 General Election and 2021 Runoff. Those who were given a provisional ballot at 6 p.m. and were able to “cure” their vote by the deadline. Those who were able to use a secure drop box located outside their place of employment. Those who were able to vote outside their senior center, saving them the trouble of waiting for a paratransit ride. Those in lower-income communities who lack “common” forms of ID but had proved themselves eligible otherwise.
Most disturbing are the legislative changes that vest power in the majority party – currently the GOP – to overturn and change the outcome of future elections. You have weighted your bill with partisanship by removing the elected Secretary of State as chair of the elections process and handing the power to GOP legislators to dismiss civil servant election officials and replace them with your appointees. These provisions represent a direct path to corruption and manipulation of elections.
Today, we call on businesses, citizens, major event planners, and individuals across the nation who champion democracy and inclusion to exercise their right to think carefully about where to make economic investments.
Whether Georgia promotes voting rights or assaults them makes news. We should all care about our state’s reputation. Are we going to be a place where people of all colors, religions, and backgrounds are welcomed to live, visit, do business, and where eligible residents can vote? Or are we to be a backwater state where the Confederacy and all it stood for still holds sway?
Will Georgia be governed by a few white men who in 2021 decided to ignore democracy, roll back civil rights, and cheat the public so they alone could dictate how many eligible voters have access to the ballot box or not? Men who witnessed the signing of a voter suppression bill in the governor’s ceremonial office while a Black woman legislator was denied entry, arrested, and charged with felony crimes for knocking on the door?
As Gov. Nathan Deal said in 2016 in vetoing a “religious freedom” bill that would have sanctioned discrimination against gay people: “This is about the character of our State and the character of its people.” That bill had been widely criticized by Big Business and the entertainment industry, and it set off alarm bells that such legislation would harm our state’s economy.
We call now for the same kind of outcry. This bill not only harms Georgia voters but also could have a similar economic impact as the religious freedom bill would have had. Big and small businesses are at risk of carrying the brunt of economic responses including cancellation of conventions, entertainment and sporting events, family reunions and more by people incensed by the attempt to suppress fair access to the ballot box. Condemnation of your voter suppression bill will be loud and profound from every corner of our state and from those contemplating coming here.
Throughout our nation’s history, Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, white women, and allies have had to fight against white men to enjoy rights granted to all citizens under the Constitution. Fight against a class of men who have acted as if these rights are theirs alone. Who treat “rights” as a “privilege” doled out in dribs and drabs only to be snatched back when the tent begins to expand.
Free and fair access to the ballot box leaves the choice up to all of us. Our state and our nation grow stronger when it is easy for every eligible voter to freely engage in the political process.
You should join us in standing on the side of democracy, freedom, fairness, and inclusion. We call on you to put forth an agenda that serves all the people – regardless of race, income or party affiliation. Earn votes in the manner required by the Constitution. As history has shown through the bravery and determination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Congressman John Lewis, and other civil rights heroes, voter suppression is not a winning strategy.
ACLU of Georgia
Atlanta Black Chambers, Inc.
Atlanta Business League
Coalition of 100 Black Women
Coalition of 100 Black Women – Metro Atlanta
Coalition for the People’s Agenda
Concerned Black Clergy
Georgia Constructors Association
National Council of Negro Women
The People’s Uprising
Small Business Majority – Georgia
South Fulton Ministerial Alliance
Urban League of Greater Atlanta
Urban League of Greater Atlanta – Guild
Urban League of Greater Atlanta – Young Professionals
Voter Empowerment Collective