Jimmy Carter: Georgia Republicans are trying to ‘turn back the clock’ on voting rights

Former president ‘disheartened, saddened and angry’ with GOP efforts to roll back voter access as states mull hundreds of restrictive legislation after Democratic victories in 2020

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 09 March 2021 21:49
House Passes Voting Rights Bill

Jimmy Carter has criticised the passage of sweeping voting restrictions in Georgia, where Republicans have sought to strip access to mail-in voting, eliminate automatic voter registration and cut early voting periods, among other drastic rollbacks to voting rights after 2020 elections saw Democratic victories.

The former US president from Georgia said the measures are an attempt to “turn back the clock” on voting access.

“I am disheartened, saddened and angry,” he said in a statement from his Carter Center, which has observed elections in 39 countries as part of its efforts to promote democracy abroad. It launched its first US election initiative in 2020, citing an “erosion” of democracy in the country.

Georgia is not the only state mulling restrictive changes to election laws and ballot access – Republicans in 43 states introduced more than 250 bills targeting voting rights.

Voting rights advocates and civil rights groups argue that Donald Trump’s persistent lie that the election was stolen from him, and his legal team’s spurious and failed attempts to overturn millions of Americans’ votes, has emboldened Republican state lawmakers across the US to do what Mr Trump and his attorneys could not.

Mr Carter said the proposals in Georgia are largely “reactions to allegations of fraud for which no evidence was produced – allegations that were, in fact, refuted through various audits, recounts, and other measures.”

“The proposed changes appear to be rooted in partisan interests, not in the interests of all Georgia voters,” he said.

He also said he is “disappointed” that proponents of voting restrictions “repeatedly and selectively referenced” a 2005 report about mail-in voting.

“While our report noted a few good and bad examples of vote-by-mail practices, its main recommendation was that further study of voting by mail was needed,” he said. “In the 16 years since the report’s release, vote-by-mail practices have progressed significantly as new technologies have been developed. In light of these advances, I believe that voting by mail can be conducted in a manner that ensures election integrity. This is just one of several ways to expand access to the voting process for voters across the state, regardless of political affiliation.”

On Monday, Georgia legislators in the state Senate passed a measure that repeals so-called “no excuse” absentee voting, used by more than 1.3 million voters in 2020 elections, including more than 450,000 Republicans.

Last week, Georgia House lawmakers also passed a sweeping bill that would cut mail-in voting and early voting access, strip elections oversight from the state’s Secretary of State, and limit voting access that would disproportionately target Black voters.

As Republican-controlled legislatures consider rolling back voter access, the US House of Representatives passed HR 1, or the For The People Act, which could undercut a significant number of Republican-backed efforts at the state level.

If adopted into law, HR 1 would constitute the single-largest piece of election protection legislation since the passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act.

The measure aims to standardise voting access at the federal level, eliminate long-standing barriers to voting and allow candidates with smaller platforms to wield more political power, by mandating automatic voter registration, allowing at least 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections, and providing mail-in voting and drop boxes for absentee ballots.

It would also make it more difficult to purge voters from voter rolls and would restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people.

On Sunday, the president signed an executive order that directs federal agencies to promote voter registration initiatives and assist with state-level efforts under the National Voter Registration Act.

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