Bishop Reginald Thomas Jackson issued a fierce rebuke Monday of a broad election-related bill introduced by Georgia Republicans last week, which he called “another attempt to suppress the black vote” after the previously red state turned blue in last month’s presidential and Senate elections. runoff.
Jackson, presiding prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which includes more than 500 churches in Peach state, condemned HB 531 during a hearing organized by voting rights group Fair Fight Action on Monday.
Among a series of provisions listed in the 48-page measure is a section that would require early voting for primaries, elections and runoffs to begin on the fourth Monday “immediately before” Election Day and end on the Friday before. Voting would take place Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 and at the same hours on the second Saturday before a primary or election.
However, counties and municipalities would be prohibited from conducting early voting on Sundays, a day that black churches in the state have previously used to increase voter turnout among parishioners with “Souls to the Polls” efforts.
“The black church has always been committed to trying to get our people to vote,” Jackson said. “So we use ‘Souls to the Polls’ as a particular medium to get our elders and other members of our congregations to vote, to come together for worship and after worship to go to the polls and cast our vote.” .
Jackson said the new bill “is just another attempt to suppress the black vote.”
“Let’s be honest: this bill is racist,” he continued, before pointing to the arguments Republican lawmakers have made in recent weeks claiming that the new election bills after Democratic victories are aimed at increasing security.
“They say that they are introducing this legislation because the citizens of Georgia do not have confidence in the election, that there is suspicion, that there was a lot of fraud in the vote,” he said, referring to the November presidential race.
“There were three stories. There has been an audit. There was one court case after another. The three accounts did not change the result. The audit did not change the result. Each and every court case was dismissed because they lacked merit and had no evidence of fraud, ”Jackson said.
“Had the Republicans won, not a single voting-related bill would have been introduced in this legislative session,” he added.
Another bill that was approved by a state Senate subcommittee in a party line vote last week sought to stop unexcused absentee voting in the state after a record turnout of no-shows in November.
In addition to restricting the days that residents can vote early in the state, HB 531 would also further limit when a voter can request an absentee ballot and when election officials can send it to voters, according to Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB ).
Previous President TrumpDonald Trump, a former Florida officer arrested after a live broadcast from inside the U.S. Capitol During a breach, the FBI says Schumer says he is working to find votes to confirm that Biden’s election to the OMB Pence declined invitation to attend CPAC: report MORE and other Republicans drew widespread criticism in recent months for repeating unfounded conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud after their defeat in November.
“It was these same Republicans who passed these laws a few years ago that provided for absentee voting, that provided for early voting, that provided for the polls,” Jackson said. “These same Republicans, when it worked for them, there was nothing wrong with it. But now that blacks and people of color are using these processes to vote, that’s why now they say we have to stop it.”
Hillary Holley, a spokeswoman for Fair Fight Action, called the Republicans’ move “a mass voter suppression bill” during the organization’s hearing on the legislation on Monday, saying they “left the right to vote to organizations and election officials on both sides of the aisle with only a few hours to review. “
Holley added that it is part of the reason why Fair Fight Action “has decided to hold daily hearings so that Georgia’s public, members of the press, and legislators really have a chance to understand what’s in this bill.” .
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. and the Southern Poverty Law Center also presented their testimony at the Special Committee on Election Integrity of the Georgia House of Representatives, where HB 531 was introduced, according to GPB, on Friday to voice their opposition. “In the strongest possible terms” to measure.
The bill, the groups said in testimony, is “primed to create unnecessary barriers and burdens on voters that disproportionately impact racial minority, low-income, elderly, rural, disabled and / or student voters, rather than to encourage ways to expand political participation immediately after the increasing participation of Georgians in the elections. “
The move, they noted, is also “tellingly” coming “in the wake of a landmark election in which black Georgians comprised 30.3% of absentee voters, and a total of 36.7% of mail-in voters. they were colored Georgians “; where more than 17% of absentee voters were under thirty-five years old. ”
In addition to opposing the bill’s provision limiting days Georgia residents can vote early, the groups are also targeting another provision that proposes photo identification requirements for absentee voting, a practice they note that it has had an “uneven impact” on “historically disenfranchised groups.”
“If passed, the prospect of these provisions, combined with the requirement for photo identification, represents an intolerable and discriminatory barrier to accessing the polls for Georgia voters, especially voters of color,” the groups added.