Ongoing efforts to impose new rules on voter registration and ballot casting within Republican-controlled states and jurisdictions are racist “post-Reconstruction Jim Crow-era laws — and that’s not hyperbolic,” voting rights activist Stacey Abrams said Monday.
“We are watching a nationwide sweep of voter suppression that is not only abysmal, it is counter to who we say we are as Americans,” she told MSNBC’s Joy Reid while discussing new changes and requirements in states including Georgia, Arizona and Florida.
“If you increase the photo ID requirements, there are millions of Americans who simply cannot meet those requirements because the underlying paperwork that they have to have either doesn’t exist, is too expensive, or is too complicated to access,” she said of one voting requirement being imposed. “We know that again and again these laws are designed for one specific purpose and that is to discourage or prevent people from voting.”
Abrams, who led voter drives during the 2020 election that flipped Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats from red to blue, was speaking of Republican-led efforts to beef up voting restrictions after the Supreme Court in 2013 invalidated a portion of the Voting Rights Act that prohibited state and local governments from making changes to their voting procedures without pre-approval from the Justice Department.
Taking advantage of this reversal, government officials have since imposed voter ID laws, closed or moved polling places and ballot drop boxes in largely minority districts, and trimmed early voting periods, which are seen to be most useful to minorities and poor people.
Georgia’s House of Representatives on Monday passed one bill that would tighten restrictions on in-person voting, vote counting and absentee ballots. HB 531, which now heads to the state Senate, would also make it a misdemeanor to give food or drink to a person waiting in line to vote so long as they’re within 150 feet of a polling place.
In Florida, after the state voted to restore voting rights to convicted felons in 2018, the state’s Republican governor made it so they could only vote if they first paid off court fines and fees, despite the state not having a centralized system to inform felons of how much they may owe, as The New York Times reported. This barrier has been likened to a voting tax, which some Southern states imposed after the 15th Amendment was ratified to allow all men, of all races, the right to vote.
These rules are “essentially pushing people, millions of people, across the country, mainly Black and brown people, out of the voting process,” Abrams said Monday of the changes following the Supreme Court’s decision.
She encouraged efforts to restore and protect voter rights with the proposed For the People Act (known as HR1 in the House and S1 in the Senate) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (known as HR4), which would restore the Voting Rights Act’s protections in states that have a recent record of racial discrimination in voting.
“When you can win elections not by having the best ideas but by stealing the right to vote then you do not deserve to win and you do not deserve the right to participate,” she said.