On Thursday, Georgia state Representative Park Cannon was arrested after she tried to watch Governor Brian Kemp sign SB 202, a divisive voting bill, into law.
In a seven-minute Facebook Live video filmed by activist Tamara Stevens, Cannon is seen knocking on the door to the room where the Governor was holding a news conference the bill, and then arrested by multiple officers who refused to state clearly why they were arresting her. A Georgia Department of Public Safety spokesperson reported that Cannon was arrested for “obstructing law enforcement and preventing or disrupting General Assembly sessions or other meetings of members.”
SB 202 imposes a sweeping set of restrictions on how votes are cast and counted in the state, including reducing the use of drop boxes, imposing new ID requirements for mail-in ballots, criminalizing third-party groups who provide food and water to voters standing in line, blocking mobile voting vans, and allowing electors to challenge the eligibility of voters, and preventing local governments from accepting grants directly from the private sector.
Senator Raphael Warnock visited Cannon in Fulton County Jail at her release Thursday evening. “What we have witnessed today is a desperate attempt to lock out and squeeze the people out of their own democracy,” he said. “We are going to take this fight to give the people their voices back.”
Voting rights advocates say that this law will most impact people of color, particularly Black voters, as well as other marginalized communities whose voting rights have been historically suppressed.
“Thousands of voters have made it clear that the types of provisions in SB 202 are unacceptable and will disproportionately harm historically disenfranchised communities, young voters, and voters with disabilities,” said Nancy Abudu, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund. “The speed and magnitude of today’s shift in election policy in Georgia is unprecedented and unlike any other major policy shift in the state’s recent history.”
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, Georgia makes one of 43 states that have together introduced over 250 bills to restrict voting access after the 2020 election as of last week. The measures restrict mail-in voting, purge voter rolls, add steps in the voter registration process, and impose strict voter ID requirements.
In a tweet early Friday morning, Representative Cannon said, “I am not the first Georgian to be arrested for fighting voter suppression. I’d love to say I’m the last, but we know that isn’t true.”
Sources: Washington Post 3/26/21; Facebook 3/25/21; Washington Post 3/25/21; Twitter 3/25/21; Twitter 3/26/21