Attempted voter suppression must come at a very serious cost to the suppressors. Hopefully, we are beginning to see at least some of that beginning to build in Georgia on today's BradCast --- even as voting rights advocates are forced to take legal action to block this latest attack on democracy by the state's Republican Party. [Audio link to show follows below.]
Hopefully, the blowback is just beginning. Last Wednesday, we were joined on the show by Marilyn Marks of the Coalition for Good Governance, as she warned about the massive voter suppression bill that Republicans in the GA state legislature were trying to jam through before this week's final day of the legislative session. But, in less than 24 hours, by Thursday, voting rights advocates were stunned --- and, arguably, caught off guard --- when the GOP-dominated state House and Senate both adopted a newly-introduced, nearly 100-page bill to pare back voting rights in a single day, before the measure, known as SB 202, was then signed just an hour or so later by long-time champion GOP vote suppressor and former Sec. of State, Governor Brian Kemp. For good measure, he did so under a painting of a slave plantation as an elected African-American member of the state House of Representatives was arrested for trying to witness the signing behind closed doors.
The measure, among other things, will increase ID requirements for absentee voting; reduce early in-person voting in some places; restrict the use of drop-boxes for mail-in ballots; ban the distribution of food and beverages to voters waiting in Georgia's famously long (in some places) voting lines; threaten third-party advocacy groups with criminal prosecution if they dare send an absentee ballot request form to someone already signed up to vote by mail; and, perhaps most perniciously, according to Marks sounding the alarm last week, allow the state's majority-GOP legislature to essentially take over control of the State Board of Elections. In turn, the State Board can then replace entire County Boards of Elections with a single partisan person, pretty much for any reason they like, threatening to both undermine or even overturn election results at the county level in...ya know...certain counties --- just as Donald Trump tried to do after losing the 2020 election in The Peach State last year.
All of that, despite zero evidence of fraud or mistally in last year's Presidential election in Georgia, where three statewide counts --- twice by machines, once by hand --- all confirmed the results, which the state confirmed to be free of fraud.
Since passage and signing of SB 202 last week, not one, but two lawsuits have been filed to try and block the law, charging that it violates both the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act (VRA), as the multiple civil and voting rights group plaintiffs allege the new voting restrictions are specifically designed to target minority voters. The President of the United States has subsequently described the law as "un-American", an "atrocity" and "Jim Crow in the 21st Century". Despite all of that, it ultimately could be the Major League Baseball Player's Association which ends up making a real difference in regards this new anti-democracy scheme. The players are reportedly deciding whether to demand this year's MLB All-Star Game, currently set for Atlanta in July, be moved to a different state if the law is not struck down.
At the same time, federal laws --- such as the For the People Act (H.R.1) or John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R.4) --- which would help protect against a number of the worst GOP voter suppression tactics now adopted by the Peach State and moving ahead in others where Republicans are considering similar measures, will not pass unless the undemocratic Jim Crow-era U.S. Senate Filibuster is, in some fashion, killed or reformed.
We're joined today by CAREN SHORT, Senior Voting Rights Attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center to discuss all of this. While her group has not yet joined either of the two federal lawsuits filed against Georgia's law, she suggests they are considering as much. In the meantime, she explains what she finds so devious about GA's racist new law, and whether or not the current lawsuits --- or even the Dept. of Justice --- may be able to reverse the worst of SB 202's attack on voters and voting in the state.
Among the issues we discuss with Short: Her views on the worst aspects of SB 202; Whether its possible to demonstrate a disproportionate affect on minority voters before an election is run with this new law in place; How the portion of the Voting Rights Act struck down by SCOTUS in 2013 would likely have prevented this entire bill from even being introduced in the first place; Whether the DoJ has grounds for filing suit themselves under still-standing portions of the VRA to protect Georgia voters; And how courts will determine whether FEARS of voter fraud (in the absence of same) is enough to justify taking rights already granted to voters away from them, among much more!
"You're right, there's a lot to be troubled about," she tells me at the top of our discussion. "This bill is troubling. It would really disenfranchise a lot of people in Georgia. Although it would apply equally to everyone, it is specifically targeted to harm black voters, brown voters, young people, voters with disabilities --- and it will do so."
"You mentioned that democracy is everyone's job. I could not agree more with that," Short says, when I ask what needs to be done to see the filibuster reformed in the U.S. Senate so that H.R.1 and H.R.4 can passed and become law. "These are our representatives. These are our policy makers. They represent what we want. ... We need democracy reform. We need transparency. We need fairness. We need protections for folks in the Deep South who are facing bills like the one in Georgia. This cannot stand. It cannot happen in my name as an American. We need to get involved. This is our moment. Call your friends who live in those states who are going to be needed for filibuster reform, if necessary. Some Democratic folks have said, 'failure is not an option.' And it's absolutely true."
Finally, with both good and worrying news about COVID (good, in that President Biden has announced vaccine distribution is moving ahead even quicker than previously hoped; worrying, in that the new CDC Director is "scared" with a sense of "impending doom" about the recent 16% rise in infections as mask mandates have been lifted in some states), we open up the phones for a quick call or two on all of this at the end of another important and lively hour...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)