Thanks to former President Donald Trump and his lackeys' Big Lie, Republican lawmakers have been able to justify more disenfranchisement of nonwhite voters in Georgia. The latest comes from an in-depth analysis of a new bill that restricts the number of ballot drop boxes in the state.
Last year, Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 202, the “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” a 98-page piece of legislation that requires all 159 Georgia counties to have at least one ballot drop box for absentee voters but caps the number of ballot drop boxes to, at most, one ballot drop box per 100,000 active registered voters. From SB 202, as enacted (emphasis added):
A board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk may establish additional drop boxes, subject to the limitations of this Code section, but may only establish additional drop boxes totaling the lesser of either one drop box for every 100,000 active registered voters in the county or the number of advance voting locations in the county.
Also, the drop boxes that were allowed to remain were moved inside voting sites and are now only accessible during early voting days and hours.
According to an analysis conducted by NPR, WABE, and Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB), after SB 202 was put into place, the number of drop boxes in Atlanta fell from 107 in 2020 to 25 in 2021. Research shows that the lack of drop boxes impacts counties where they’re most often used—specifically, in counties with the highest number of Democratic voters and voters of color.
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Ballot drop boxes were brought to Georgia for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep voters safe during the 2020 elections. But as a result of Trump’s ongoing conspiracy theorizing about (debunked and unfounded) claims of “massive” voter fraud—bolstered by right-wing media and a bevy of groups ranging from white supremacist OathKeepers to white supremacist QAnoners to white supremacist GOP lawmakers—and the release of Dinesh D’Souza’s multiply-debunked and widely criticized film, 2000 Mules, ballot drop boxes are allegedly at fault for Trump’s failure to secure a second term.
NPR and its affiliates’ analysis found that the approximate 550,000 voters who used the ballot drop boxes in the 2020 election in the four primary metro Atlanta counties were overwhelmingly voters of color.
"In any state that's going to have tight elections, and Georgia's had some nail-biters, then even those marginal changes could have significant effects on the outcome of elections. … Not every election is decided by tens of thousands of votes. Some are decided by under 100 votes," Benjamin Gonzalez O'Brien, who teaches political science at San Diego State University, told NPR News.
Trump lost to Biden in Georgia by just over 11,000 votes.
But Georgia is not the only state where drop boxes are under attack by Republicans.
The Texas Tribune reported in 2020 that, during the pandemic, the Texas Supreme Court upheld Gov. Greg Abbot’s order limiting Texas counties to only one drop-off location for absentee ballots. In Iowa, drop boxes are limited to a single box at the office of the county elections commissioner, which is only accessible when the office is open. And Florida’s SB 90 prohibits the use of drop boxes except in early voting—and even then, they must be monitored by someone at all times, Democracy Docket reports.
Georgia Democratic State Rep. Bee Nguyen, who is running for Secretary of State in the midterms this year, told NPR that SB 202 is intended to suppress the vote—particularly for Democrats and voters of color in cities.
"The attacks were not backed up by any kind of facts. … All of this was wrapped up in the greater scheme of the 'Big Lie,’” Nguyen says.
All of this points to the fact that the Senate needs to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, because as we move into midterms and then the next presidential election in 2024, the GOP will scale up its attacks on voting.
It’s only a matter of time before Republicans move to eliminate the drop boxes altogether.
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