Democratic voting rights activist Stacey Abrams has condemned the voting legislation being passed by Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country as “racist” because it tends to target and outlaw voting practices that have directly correlated with higher minority turnout such as mail-in voting and early in-person voting.
Republican state lawmakers in 43 states have proposed more than 250 laws making it more onerous to cast a vote, an analysis from the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice has found. Those laws include curbing opportunities for Americans to cast ballots early and vote by mail; requiring stricter identification documents, which minority voters disproportionately have been able to produce in the past; and limiting hours at polling places and drop boxes on the streets.
“First of all I do absolutely agree that it's racist. It is a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie,” Ms Abrams said in an interview on Sunday with CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“It's not that there was a question of security [in 2020],” Ms Abrams said, noting that Georgia’s GOP governor and secretary of state, as well as other Republican officials, went to “great pains” to ensure Georgians their 2020 election was not tainted with fraud.
“The only connection that we can find is that more people of colour voted, and it changed the outcome of elections in a direction that Republicans do not like,” Ms Abrams said.
Ms Abrams, who was defeated by Republican Brian Kemp in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial election, has been widely credited with encouraging and facilitating unprecedented Black voter participation in her state, helping flip the once ruby red Peach State blue in the 2020 presidential election and in both the Senate runoffs earlier this year.
The victories of Georgia Democratic Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in those runoffs cinched Democratic control of the Senate, allowing Joe Biden to pass his $1.9trn Covid relief package on a party-line basis.
Since her 2018 election defeat — which was marked by controversy and claims of voter suppression against Mr Kemp, who was the state’s top elections official at the time — Ms Abrams has worked with voting rights advocacy groups to enfranchise black Americans across the country.
Her own group, Fair Fight, was instrumental in pushing for expanded mail-in voting opportunities in last year’s elections amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Republicans backing the state-level efforts to curtail voting access have said the measures are necessary to fix a system they profess to believe was corrupted by fraud. That’s despite Trump-appointed leaders at the FBI and Justice Department saying there was no substantial level of fraud in any state that would have swung that state’s electoral count towards the other presidential candidate.
On Sunday, Ms Abrams outlined how curtailing certain voting practices would hinder Black turnout.
“Instead of celebrating better access and more participation” in 2020, Ms Abrams said, GOP lawmakers’ response has been to “eliminate access to voting [in] primarily communities of colour.”
She added: “There's a direct correlation between the usage of drop boxes, the usage of in-person early voting, especially on Sundays, and the use of vote by mail [with] the direct increase in the number of people of colour voting.”
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