Republican lawmakers skip hearing on impact of Georgia voting restrictions

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Not a single GOP senator attended a field hearing in Atlanta to assess the impact of new voting restrictions from a law Georgia Republicans passed earlier this year.

The Senate Rules Committee held a field hearing Monday morning in Atlanta to assess how new voting restrictions Georgia Republicans passed will impact voters in the state.

Four of the committee's nine Democratic members were in attendance, including Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar and Georgia Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff.

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) was also in attendance as a witness, testifying about how the law will impact his home state.

Not one GOP lawmaker was at the hearing, nor did any of them provide witnesses to defend Georgia's law, according to multiple reports.

Georgia's law, which the GOP-controlled Legislature passed in March, makes it harder to vote by requiring ID to vote by mail, giving voters less time to request absentee ballots, dramatically cutting back on drop boxes to return absentee ballots, making it a crime to give out food or drink to voters waiting in long lines, and even giving Republicans more control over election administration.

Witnesses at the hearing slammed the law and called on Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation in order to combat the kind of voter suppression efforts Republicans are undertaking across the country.

State Rep. Billy Mitchell, who serves as president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, said in testimony that Republican's intent with the Georgia law was to suppress the vote.

"Since we are in Atlanta, the birth and nurturing place of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I'm reminded of what he said decades ago, when asked about voting rights as they pertained to African-Americans — but he certainly could have been talking about any American — when he said, 'Some people, don't want some people to vote!' Mitchell testified.

He went on to point to what he said he is "most concerned about," which is that Republicans gave themselves more control over election administration following President Joe Biden's victory in the state, as well as strong Democratic performance in the 2020 election.

"They are replacing elected officials in the State and Counties, who must concern themselves with the will of the voters, with political appointees, who's only concern is the will of the person who appointed them," Mitchell said.

He added that Republicans:

are changing the law such that not only are they no longer required to be non-partisan; but if they don’t like the outcome of an election they can simply and immediately just take-over the election board. These political appointees could overturn elections without fear of being held accountable by the voters. For that reason alone, these election laws should concern us all.

Warnock called for Congress to pass voting rights legislation to put a stop to laws like Georgia's.

"We are in a 911 emergency for our democracy," Warnock said in his opening remarks. "We are witnessing a shameless, unabashed assault on people’s voting rights. And in the face of all that we’re seeing in Georgia, and across the country, we must pass federal voting rights legislation — no matter what."

Democrats on the Rules Committee are looking to build support for the For the People Act — a sweeping piece of legislation that would prohibit almost every one of the laws Republican legislatures have passed across the country to make it harder to vote.

The legislation would require states to allow anyone who wants to vote absentee to do so, prohibit some uses of voter ID, require states to adopt automatic voter registration, streamline the process by which state election boards could purge voter rolls, and re-enfranchise Americans who complete felony sentences.

Republicans stand vehemently against the bill, which passed the Democratic-controlled House in March. Senate Republicans ultimately blocked the law using the filibuster in June.

Voting rights activists are now urging Democrats to do away with the filibuster — which Republicans utilized to block the bill in the Senate — to pass the legislation.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.