D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine joined 22 additional attorneys generals to speak out against the threat to voting rights in the State of Georgia. (Courtesy Photo)

By Deborah Bailey
Special to the AFRO

District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine has joined the national dialogue on voting rights heating up across the nation in the aftermath of the 2020 election.  Racine and New York Attorney General Letitia James filed an amicus brief this month, along with 22 additional attorneys generals supporting the United States Justice Department in its voting rights case against the State of Georgia. 

The Attorneys Generals charge Georgia with international discrimination against Black and other voters of color and assert that the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia permit the case to advance to trial.  

“The impact of Georgia’s new election law is clear – it will ensure that only some votes are counted while making it harder for Black voters to have their voices heard,” said Racine in support of the brief filed this month.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against the State of Georgia on June 25, challenging provisions of SB 202The Election Integrity Act of 2021, adopted by the Georgia State Senate and signed into law in March 2021. 

The “friend of the court” or amicus brief contends the new voting law passed by the Georgia State Legislature guarantees anything but integrity for Black voters.  

SB 202 constricts many of the voting methods favored by Black Georgians. It does so in the wake of a historic election that saw voters of color exert their electoral power in unprecedented ways, it was enacted through an atypical legislative process, against the backdrop of substantial racial polarization, in a State with a history fraught with racial discrimination, including in the voting space,” according to the Amicus Brief of the District of Columbia (et. al – p.8.). 

At the June event announcing the Justice Department’s legal action against the State of Georgia, U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland reviewed several provisions in the bill passed by the Georgia State Senate that make it harder for Blacks and other people of color to exercise the right to vote including:  

  •  Government entities can no longer distribute unsolicited absentee ballot applications.
  • Civic organizations, churches and advocacy groups that distribute follow-up absentee ballot applications are now subject to costly fines. 

The deadline to request absentee ballots has been shortened to 11 days before Election Day. 

  • A new requirement that voters must submit a driver’s license number or a photocopy of a driver’s license or another approved state ID to request an absentee ballot. Voters can no longer use the last four digits of their social security number to complete such applications. 
  • New restrictions on the number of absentee ballot drop boxes that can be used by counties. All drop boxes must now be under constant surveillance by an election official, law enforcement or a security guard.   
  • Churches and civic groups cannot provide food or water to persons waiting in long lines to vote.
  • Out of precinct provisional ballots cannot be cast before 5 p.m. on Election Day, only hours before polls close. 

Georgia Congressman Buddy Allen (R-12) also filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Northern District Court of Georgia this month along with 50 Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives, supporting the Election Integrity Act.  The lawmakers urged the Court to uphold the bill referencing the right of states to make and enforce election laws.  

Meanwhile, members of the Texas State Legislature joined Civil and voting rights advocates Al Sharpton and Martin L. King, III this summer lobbying Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation after scores of Democratic lawmakers left Texas in July, refusing to vote for the kind of restrictive measures that have now become law in Georgia. 

The Civil Rights leaders are planning major voting rights marches across America on Aug. 28. The demonstrations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Houston, Phoenix and Miami are being planned to make the case for Congress to pass federal voting legislation. 

Restrictive election laws have recently passed in Georgia, Arizona and sixteen other states according to the Brennen Center for Justice at New York University.  

King, whose Drum Major Institute is based in Atlanta, testified to the need for federal voting rights legislation to protect advances made by voters of color. 

“My father used to say that a voteless people is a powerless people. We need federal legislation to expand voting rights and give every American access to the ballot box,” King said to Texas State Legislators at the National Martin L. King, Jr. Monument in the nation’s capital last month.

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