"We are very worried": Black voters worry about changes in Georgia's voting laws

Many voting rights organizations are working to address concerns before the primaries and midterm elections.

"We are very worried": Black voters worry about changes in Georgia's voting laws

ATLANTA -- Varana King stated that she was thrilled to vote early last fall with Gregory.

She said that at least 1,500 people were already waiting when they arrived at South Cobb Regional Library, Mableton, Georgia at 9 a.m. The couple, both from the U.S. Army, finally cast their ballots eight hours later.

Varana, 56 said that "Everything that could have happened while we were standing in the line." This included a downpour, and swelling feet.

She said, "In my mind," if there are still these kinds of problems, it is intentional.

Varana believes that things will get worse in some places since Georgia Governor. Brian Kemp, a Republican signed a restrictive voting bill last year. Senate Bill 202 limits early voting sites, and reduces the hours and number of drop boxes. She's not the only one.

Recent Quinnipiac University survey showed that only 40% of Black registered voters in Georgia expect it to be easy to vote in 2022. This compares to 73 percent for white registered voters. Only 20% of Black respondents believe that all Georgians will be eligible to vote in the 2022 general election.

Varana, a retired government worker said that she won't be discouraged but is concerned about the impact on other people. Many voting rights groups are working to address concerns before the primaries and midterm elections.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice analysis at the New York University School of Law which tracks voting bills, and advocates for federal election legislation, 34 restrictive laws were passed in at least 19 states last year.

Georgia's law, which was passed last March, requires identification to mail-in vote. It also makes it illegal to give food or water to voters who are waiting. The law also allows state election officials the power to administer county elections. Kemp stated that the law would make it easier to vote and harder to cheat.

Richard Rose, president of the Atlanta NAACP, said that among the biggest concerns he has heard from Black voters is that the law will make it harder for people to cast absentee ballots and vote by mail, and that it has allowed a reduction in the number of polling places in Republican-controlled counties.

He claimed it reminded him of Jim Crow-era laws which suppressed Black votes.

Rose, 73, stated that if the Republicans could just disengage 300 voters from each county (there are 159 in Georgia) it would be enough to change Georgia's outcome in 2020. Rose spoke out as he left the state Legislature. "We are concerned about the impact of these things on voting rights."

This is evident to Ted Winn, a Georgian Black resident and podcast host, who also acts as a social justice advocate.

He said that many people are concerned about new laws and how they will affect poor and Black people. It's not a clandestine approach to voter suppression. It is very transparent, unapologetic and open. That is frustrating, deterring, and upsetting for many people on the ground, I believe."

Chandra and Carl Abbott, who reside in southwest Atlanta, expressed concern about possible changes to voting hours that might not be conducive for working parents such as themselves.

Carl, 44, a medical sales professional, stated that even the smallest change in one area can make a difference in someone's willingness and ability to vote.

Chandra, Chandra's 45-year-old wife, stated that "it's very obvious that it's largely through design, for it have to be a obstacle." "And that's very regrettable, considering all that we, certainly as Black people, have done to get this equal footing in relation to our right to vote."

The couple stated that it would not affect their decision to vote.

Chandra, a scientist working in the pharmaceutical industry said that she is concerned about Black people experiencing "fight fatigue."

"I believe that despite all the struggles that are going, the pandemic, the racial injustice, there's still a fatigue, I think. She described it as "fight fatigue". "So it's like: What issue are you going focus on?"

Hillary Holley is the organizing director of Fair Fight Action. She stated that voter suppression laws are designed to confuse voters so as to discourage Black people from voting. Her group was founded in part by Stacey Abrams who narrowly lost her bid to become Georgia governor. The contest was marked by accusations of voter suppression that mainly affected Black voters.

Holley stated that there has been an increase in Black voter turnout over the years, despite attempts at suppressing their votes.

She said, "What I hear is that Black voters are unhappy with voter suppression laws." "They are angry that people are trying restrict their access to vote."

After expressing her frustration and anger, she replied, "Their next question is always, "OK, so what should we do?" This is what I hear all across the state.

Holley stated that many young voters (I'm a Black voter, born and raised in Georgia) were taught that the worst was over and that America had won. It is frustrating that we are still dealing with this.

She stated that the Democratic Party of Georgia received over 50,000 calls from its voter protection hotline during the 2018 gubernatorial race when Kemp was challenged by Abrams. Most of these were from voters of color across Georgia who had encountered problems when casting their ballots.

Holley stated, "So think about this: If those 50,000 people didn't call, that would have an important impact on the results."

Fair Fight Action and its allies have been trying to reach voters of colour to avoid any confusion, she stated. The organization will use paid visibility campaigns in partnership with restaurants throughout the state to distribute non-partisan voter education materials.

She said that voters often have questions about new voting laws and voters will reach out with any concerns. "We respond to their questions, but we also offer a variety of programs that teach voters.

Varana was born in Greenwood in Mississippi. There are historical markers that identify the sites of civil rights movements and where Black protestors fought for voting rights during the 1960s. She stated that she was taught about the importance of voting by her grandparents and parents as a child, but she isn't certain that future elections will be conducted properly or that her vote counted. She will exercise her right of vote regardless.

She said, "I've always been wary about that."

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