AUCC Presidents Decry Attack on Voting Rights in Georgia
The Atlanta University Center Consortium and its member institutions—Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College—view the passage of SB 202 as a direct assault on the voting rights of all citizens, particularly African Americans, the poor and other underserved communities. The “Election Integrity Act of 2021" stands at odds with the overarching social justice missions of our member institutions. Thus, it is our duty and desire to reassert our community engagement to educate the citizens of Georgia and those who attend our institutions of higher learning about the negative impact of this legislation on their rights to vote.
The “Election Integrity Act of 2021," an omnibus elections bill that incorporates elements of at least 16 other bills that Georgia legislators had previously introduced, was signed into law on March 25 very quickly after its passage. This law of nearly 100 pages makes sweeping and controversial changes to how elections are run in Georgia. A review of this law makes clear that voters in Georgia will be negatively impacted by nearly every component of this new law. It is detrimental to the core of our democracy—the right to free and unfettered elections. The new law implements several processes and procedures that will return Georgia’s elections to an era of disfranchisement that is nothing less than 21st Century Jim Crowism. Here are just a few of the disfranchisement strategies now codified into law.
- The law limits absentee voting by requiring voters to provide a state identification number or photocopy of an identifying document with their absentee ballot application.
- The law prevents election officials from affirmatively sending out ballot applications, giving voters less time to apply for an absentee ballot.
- The law sharply restricts the availability and hours of drop boxes.
- The law specifies that drop boxes must be placed inside of early voting sites or election offices and they are only available during voting hours—unlike 2020 when boxes were placed outdoors and available 24 hours a day. This provision impacts the ability of any voter who must work hours that overlap the open hours of the voting sites.
- The law standardizes early voting days and hours. effectively reducing early voting in many counties.
- The law provides an avenue for one person to request election officials remove an unlimited number of voters from the voter rolls by accusation of ineligibility.
- The law gives the State Election Board the power to fire and replace local election officials. This is troublesome because whatever political party is in control of the state board could interfere with the certification of elections that do not go their way.
- And, in one particularly cruel and inexplicable provision, the law criminalizes the act of giving snacks or water to voters waiting in line at polling places.
Defenders of the law point out the few provisions that expand voter access such as one pro-voter provision that directs that the superintendent for precincts with more than 2,000 voters that had wait times of more than an hour on the previous general Election Day must either reduce the size of the precinct to no more than 2,000 voters (such a precinct split must happen no later than 60 days before the election), provide additional voting equipment or poll workers, or both, before the next general election. In addition, wait times must be measured at least three times per day and recorded. There are also provisions expanding the times available to vote on weekends and adding an additional Saturday to early voting. Despite proclamations that the bill expands voter access, for many in our communities, it clearly restricts that access. And the restrictions and denial of access clearly outweigh any of the good.
We are educational institutions that insist on the use of scientific inquiry and data to inform decisions and thus, policy. This law fails these basic principles. Section 2 of the bill provides a summary of the foundation for enacting these changes. The section relies on the disproved and unfounded notions of rampant voter fraud. With over 60 law cases filed, the data indicate that there was no evidence of voter fraud in any of the cases put forward. Every case was either rejected or lost on the lack of merit. Even so, the Legislature passed this unnecessary and damaging bill. Sadly, several bills to restrict voting access have emerged in legislatures across the U.S. since the onset of 2021—and Georgia’s is the first to be passed into law.
The institutions of the Atlanta University Center Consortium teach a truth that aims to refine and polish our democracy—not attempt to extinguish its fundamental lifeline of the right of free and unfettered voting based on wild inaccuracies and falsehoods. This law has struck at the heart of our democracy in a very negative way. However, we will not grow weary. We will continue to aggressively, but peacefully oppose this disgraceful, self-serving assault on our democracy The Atlanta University Center Consortium and its member institutions of Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College reassert their missions to educate the electorate as the guardian of our democracy. This is how we strengthen our democracy and illuminate the path to justice, equality and civil society where opportunities to exercise the right to vote is expanded.
George T. French Jr., Ph.D.
President, Clark Atlanta University
David Thomas, Ph.D.
President, Morehouse College
Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, FACOG
President, Morehouse School of Medicine
Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.
President, Spelman College
Executive Director, Atlanta University Center Consortium, Inc.