By: Daniel Galal
Though it has been two months since the election, the issue of voting rights is as contentious as it was during election season. Each election cycle, there is renewed conversation over the merits, and flaws, of our voting system. With a Democrat in office this time around, state Republicans are drafting laws to strengthen their positions within their respective political spheres, and voting laws are convenient ways to do this. Georgia Senate’s SB 202, a new voting reform bill, drew a media firestorm over the past few days. Democrats and advocacy groups have denounced the bill as exclusionary, discriminatory, and possibly racist. The contents of the bill clearly indicate a conservative, regulatory attitude when it comes to voting accessibility; rules such as voter ID with mail-in ballots, fewer ballot box locations, and other terms will make it harder for certain people to vote. The question and concern for many is, will certain groups be more affected than others?
Voting regulations can win elections. Of course, this does not necessarily mean a legislature can selectively rule out who can vote and who cannot. However, a state legislature can pass laws that regulate the voting process to a degree that marginalizes certain groups of people. When certain voting blocs are disenfranchised, the dominant party can reap the benefits. Unfortunately, many of these laws have a clear racial implication, if not a racial motivation. Voter ID laws, long a controversial subject, are so contentious for its implications of racial bias. The ACLU has said that “minority voters disproportionately lack ID” and that “nationally, up to 25% of African-American citizens of voting age lack government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of whites” (https://www.aclu.org/other/oppose-voter-id-legislation-fact-sheet). Voter ID also has non-racial, yet still disturbing, implications. Those who live in lower-income and rural areas are more likely to be affected by strict voter ID legislation. The Georgia Senate law, which introduced additional voter ID regulations, has attracted criticism for these very reasons.
Despite racial motivations, these laws might be more political in their ends. Georgia was a surprising and narrow victory for President Biden, so state Republicans are acting with urgency to once again gather a stronghold. These voting laws can help with that; by potentially excluding voters who lean Democrat, the Republican party can reclaim its prior dominance in the typically red state.
Whether the motivation behind these laws was political or indeed something more nefarious, response was swift and biting from prominent politicians. President Biden denounced the laws as “Jim Crow in the 21st Century,” finding the limitations detrimental to the Black vote. Fellow Republicans were quick to commend the legislation, and state representatives in Arizona and Florida have expressed support for similar laws in their home states. Once again, both states were hotly contested in the 2020 election, so tighter restrictions can help secure a victory for the Republicans come 2024.