The Republican-controlled Georgia state Senate voted Monday to pass sweeping legislation that would restrict access to voting for thousands of Georgia residents.
The bill, which passed 29-20, will end no-excuse absentee voting and will enact stricter voter identification laws for absentee ballots. Only residents who are disabled, over 65, are in the military, have a religious holiday that falls on Election Day, or will be out of town during an election will be allowed to vote by mail. Those voting by mail will be required to submit a copy of a photo ID, and have their ballot signed by a witness in order for their vote to be counted.
According to the Huffington Post, around 1.3 million Georgia residents voted by mail in 2020, most of whom voted Democratic and help to flip the state from red to blue for the first time since 1992. Absentee votes also helped to secure two more Democratic seats in the U.S. Senate when Georgia Senators Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff both won their races in the Georgia runoff elections.
According to data from the Brennan Center for Justice, these new restrictions will disproportionately harm Black voters.
“Although white voters still made up a majority of mail voters, their share of the vote-by-mail electorate dropped from 67 percent in 2016 to 54 percent in 2020; the Black share, meanwhile, surged from 23 percent to 31 percent. As the figure below shows, nearly 30 percent of Black voters cast their ballot by mail in 2020, but just 24 percent of white voters did so,” states a recent report.
The bill joins recent legislation introduced by the Georgia House that would also work to restrict voting access by enacting stringent voter ID laws, strip power from the secretary of state’s office, and enforce new early voting hours which would limit voting times in larger, more Democratic counties.
“Georgia has spent the majority of its history systematically erecting barriers designed to dilute the power of Black voters ― all to minimize their political voices on the issues that matter most to them,” Nancy Abudu, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund told HuffPost. “Decades of hard work by voting rights advocates across the state led to record turnout in 2020 despite the pandemic.”
These bills are part of a larger nationwide Republican voter suppression strategy. As of February 19, at least 253 bills that restrict voting access have been carried over, introduced, or filed in 43 states.