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Stacey Abrams Calls GOP Voter Suppression Effort “Jim Crow in a Suit and Tie”

Georgia Republicans have been aggressively pushing racist voter suppression laws after record turnout in 2020 elections.

Former gubernatorial candidate for Georgia Stacey Abrams speaks at University of New England's Portland campus on January 22, 2020.

On Sunday, Stacey Abrams panned the slate of voter suppression laws being pushed by Republicans in Georgia, saying that the “racist” laws are “a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie.”

“We know that the only thing that precipitated these changes — it’s not that there was a question of security. In fact, the secretary of state and the governor went to great pains to assure America that Georgia’s elections were secure,” Abrams told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday.

Following their losses in the 2020 election in Georgia and across the country, Republicans in state legislatures have introduced hundreds of bills aimed at making it harder to vote. The bills introduced in Georgia are particularly far-reaching, and, if signed into law, would severely restrict early and absentee voting in the state.

Democrats won big in Georgia in recent elections, due partially to the work of voting rights activists like Abrams who helped turn out more voters in the state, especially Black voters and voters of color. Black voters especially turned out in droves to vote early or by mail this election, and reporting found that some were even driven by what they viewed as previous voter suppression efforts in the state.

Now, following record voter turnout, Republicans are trying to suppress voting in the state, and many of the attacks on voting seem to be aimed squarely at getting fewer Black voters to vote. One of the provisions they’ve proposed and passed is a bill restricting early voting to only one Sunday prior to election day, perhaps due to the fact that Sundays are big for Black voter turnout thanks to “souls to the polls” events.

“And so the only connection that we can find is that more people of color voted, and it changed the outcome of elections in a direction that Republicans do not like,” Abrams said. “Instead of celebrating better access and more participation, their response is to try to eliminate access to voting for, primarily, communities of color.”

“There’s a direct correlation between the usage of dropboxes, the usage of in-person early voting, especially on Sundays, and the use of vote-by-mail and a direct increase in the number of people of color voting,” Abrams continued.

Republicans last week voted to end Georgia’s no-excuse absentee voting, which they’ve had in place since 2005 and was originally a Republican proposal that they now view as having turned against them politically. The state Senate had also moved forward with a Republican proposal to end automatic voter registration, which led to record voter turnout after it was implemented in 2016, but the senators ended up tabling that proposal.

Voter suppression has a long, racist and violent history in the U.S., and scholars say that the Jim Crow era of racist laws still has an effect on voter suppression today. Even before this year’s wave of state laws, voter suppression efforts ahead of the 2020 election — like Donald Trump’s sabotaging of the United States Postal Service’s ability to deliver mail-in ballots — were so similar to Jim Crow era laws that some activists have taken to calling them “Jim Crow 2.0.”

Republicans’ push to limit the windows for early voting in the state, for instance, is a law that appears to affect everyone equally but in reality would likely further subjugate voters in nonwhite communities. Nonwhite voters in Georgia already have to wait for hours in line to vote as the number of polling locations were decreased precipitously in places like Atlanta, which has a majority Black population.

The measures to narrow the period for early voting would likely increase the already long lines in certain areas. Republicans have further proposed outlawing the handing out of water and food to people waiting in line to vote, making it a misdemeanor crime to do so.

These bills in Georgia are part of Republicans’ efforts nationwide to suppress voting — and Republicans have basically admitted as such. Last week, a Republican in Arizona offered his reasoning for the efforts within his state to pass similar voter restrictions. “Everybody shouldn’t be voting,” he said in explaining why Republicans are working so hard to suppress the vote. “Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well.”

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