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The Southern Christian Leadership Conference Is Joining A Lawsuit Against the State of Georgia For Passing A Bill to Restrict Voting
Georgia Cannot Be the Model for Other States to Follow, SCLC President Dr. Charles Steele, Jr. Says
ATLANTA – Hoping to discourage states from following Georgia which has taken extreme steps to suppress voting, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) announced today that it is joining a lawsuit against the Southern state for passing Senate Bill 202, which aims to prevent many Black and historically disenfranchised citizens from voting.
With the lawsuit, the SCLC, co-founded and first led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., joins the litigation filed by The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union, The Southern Poverty Law Center, the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, The African Methodist Episcopal Church and others. Georgia is one of 14 states that have taken actions to make it more difficult for citizens to vote. This weekend, Democratic legislators in Texas walked out of a session, where Texas Governor Greg Abbott is trying to implement polices to make it more difficult for some citizens to vote in the Longhorn State.
“We want to prevent other states from passing bills that pretty much amounts to voting intimidation,” said Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., president and CEO of the SCLC.
Dr. Steele, who has been sounding the alarm for years about the need to restore the 1965 Voting Right Act which paved the way for freedom and justice around the world, said it is clear why Georgia and other states, which have been Republican strongholds, are imposing sweeping provisions to deny access for all citizens to vote. They have been successful, he said, in gutting the legendary Voting Rights Act and stripping away freedoms.
“They want to prevent what occurred in the last election with the astronomical turnout that was greater than ever before,” he said. “More than 5 million people voted in the 2020 elections in Georgia. Four million in the runoff race for the U.S. Senate, and a very large percentage of new voters were Black voters. Despite Covid-19, there were more than 1.3 million absentee votes, nearly 30 percent were cast by mail. African Americans accounted for 42 percent of those requesting absentee ballots.”
Dr. Steele said the SCLC, which has been on the frontline fighting for voting rights that led to historic 1965 Voting Right Act, will not sit idly by and allow this freedom to be taken from citizens.
“We are suing Georgia, so other states will not see Georgia as the model of where America is headed,” Dr. Steele says. “It is an attack on the Black voting power. There has been too much blood shed and too many lives lost for us to ever turn back, and the time is now to move this nation forward where all citizens have the right to vote and no baseless claims, or intimidation tactics will stop where America is headed.”
Dr. Steele said the SCLC is seeking to overturn the following restrictions in the lawsuit:
•Identification requirements for absentee voting: S.B. 202 requires voters to provide a Georgia driver’s license (even if expired) or other government-issued identification to request and cast an absentee ballot. Voters who do not have these forms of identification when requesting an absentee ballot must provide a photocopy or electronic image of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document containing their name and address. Similar sensitive information, including a voter’s social security number, may be required to return an absentee ballot.
• Limitations on use of secure drop boxes: S.B. 202 allows for the use of secure drop boxes, but caps the total number (which drastically reduces the number of secure drop boxes available in the most populous counties and in smaller counties), requires them to be located inside of the office of the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk or inside of an advance voting location (outside of an emergency), limits the hours, limits their use and availability during the early voting period (not available the weekend before Election Day), and imposes new in-person security requirements, which could include law enforcement.
• Line warming ban: S.B. 202 makes it a crime to give or “offer to give” food and water to voters standing within 150 feet of the outer edge of a polling place. S.B. 202 also makes it a crime to come within 25 feet of a voter standing anywhere in the line to vote or “offer to give” food and water.
• Drastic reduction in early voting for runoff elections: S.B. 202 forces all runoff elections to take place 28 days after the general or primary election, which drastically reduces the advance voting period for runoffs from three weeks to one week, with no mandatory weekend voting days, including Sunday voting.
• Delayed and compressed time period to request an absentee ballot: Before S.B. 202’s enactment, a voter could request an absentee ballot during the period starting 180 days prior to an election through the Friday prior to the election. S.B. 202 reduces the time during which a voter can request an absentee ballot to the period starting 78 days prior to the election and requires that the application be received by the county election administrator 11 days prior to the election.
• Mobile voting unit restrictions: Prior to S.B. 202’s enactment, Georgia law permitted election administrators to provide portable polling facilities, known as “mobile voting units,” which have been used to mitigate long lines and provide voting access in situations where voters may have difficulty accessing a polling location. S.B. 202 restricts the use of mobile voting units to only narrow circumstances in which an emergency is declared by the Governor.
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