“Frankenstein” omnibus bills HB 531 and SB 241 punish voters and undermine democracy;
Federal oversight and a restored Voting Rights Act necessary
ATLANTA – Yesterday, over a dozen election-related bills were debated or voted on in both Georgia General Assembly chambers in subcommittees, committees, and on the floor. Today, the largest of these bills – HB 531 – was voted out of the House’s Special Committee on Election Integrity along party lines. Meanwhile this week, another omnibus bill SB 241 was introduced in the Senate. When activity at the statehouse is completed today, there will be five legislative days remaining for chambers to pass bills in order for those bills to be considered by the other chamber and passed into law this year.
The following statement in response to this legislative activity is by Nancy Abudu, deputy legal director for the SPLC Action Fund:
“Whether legislators acknowledge it or not, this week's marathon of anti-voter activity promotes and perpetuates the same deadly conspiracy theories that drove thousands to political violence on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol.
“In the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic, voters resoundingly turned out to the polls and made their voices heard in recent months. In response, legislators in Georgia and across the Deep South have manufactured lies about voting irregularities. Voters and advocates are now overwhelmed with countless bills based on these lies that are designed to infringe on everyone’s freedom to vote – with particular and intentional harm to voters of color.
“The version of HB 531 that passed out of committee today – a Frankenstein combination of more than a dozen smaller bills designed to make voting harder – continues to be unavailable for the millions of Georgia voters to review online. And yet, it’s on its way to the next committee in the process. Demonstrating the bill’s intended target most clearly: one of HB 531’s provisions restricts counties to opening polls for only one Sunday during the early voting period – as opposed to the three total available now – and limiting Black churches in their ‘Souls to the Polls’ voter engagement drives.
“Georgia’s Republican state senators – not to be outdone by their counterparts in punishing voters and undermining democracy – this week introduced SB 241, their own Frankenstein omnibus anti-voter bill. Among other provisions, it would end no-excuse absentee voting as well as establish a process to fire county election officials en masse and effectively take over local election boards in Georgia’s most populated counties with the highest percentage of voters of color.
“Now more than ever, the history-making lawmakers that Georgians sent to Washington, DC, must work to pass legislation like the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to secure and protect our freedom to vote in the future. A renewed and strengthened Voting Rights Act within the late Congressman Lewis’s namesake bill could invalidate most, if not all, of the major state bills passed this year in Georgia and across the Deep South that hurt voters.”
“Tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on House Administration will hold a hearing on ‘Strengthening American Democracy’ to explore legislation to address the slew of anti-voter bills in Georgia and elsewhere across the country. In between our good trouble at the statehouse, we will be monitoring this hearing and other action in Washington, DC, and pushing our members of Congress for increased federal protection, support, and resources.”