Barbara Reynolds | Guest columnist
Georgia Gov. Kemp signs controversial voting bill, lawmaker arrested
Democratic state Rep. Park Cannon was arrested after knocking on the door of Governor Brian Kemp’s office as he signed the elections legislation.
Staff video, USA TODAY
- Barbara C. Reynolds is retired dean of the Whitson-Hester School of Nursing at Tennessee Tech University.
The election of 2020 taught us all how important it is to make sure that there is accountability, fairness, and absence of fraud and cheating in our elections.
The For the People Act, which the U.S. House passed in March is now before the Senate. This is a long overdue reform bill that covers three basic areas: voting rights, campaign finance and ethics. This bill with its many reform measures will expand voter rights and reduce the influence of money in politics.
Polling from the firm Data for Progress found that 67% of national likely voters supported HR1, including 56% of Republicans, 68% of independents and 77% of Democrats. Sens. Bill Hagerty and Marsha Blackburn, both Tennessee Republicans, have the opportunity to vote on a bill that will strengthen and reinforce our democracy.
A nationwide push to restrict voting
Legislators in 47 states as of March 24 have introduced 361 bills that would restrict voting rights if enacted, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
These bills mostly target non-white voters’ access to the ballot. Some of these bills reduce early and weekend voting. Some require a specific kind of identification and a witness, or do not allow for no-excuse absentee voting by mail or by purging names of voters. One Arizona legislator said, “quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of the votes, as well.”
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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on March 25 cowardly signed a 98-page bill further restricting voter rights. It was a bill that had been rammed through the state legislature and passed with only Republican votes. This bill was rooted in the falsehoods regarding fraud spread by Donald Trump.
This new bill among other things restricts drop boxes, allows citizen challenges to voter eligibility and makes it a misdemeanor to give food or drink to someone who is in line to vote. State Rep. Park Cannon, a Black Democrat, attempted to enter Kemp’s office as he signed the bill. She was restrained, handcuffed and removed her from the building.
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Renewing the fight for voting rights
President Lyndon Johnson signed the original Voting Rights Act in August 1965. That bill enacted voting rights that gave Black citizens the right to vote and restricted laws that had blocked Blacks from voting. The Supreme court in 2013 gutted much of the VRA’s regulatory authority, thus leaving it open for states to set up their own voting rules.
There have been many “Jim Crow” laws passed in southern states. Jim Crow laws are any laws that enforce racial segregation and deny equal opportunities for black citizens. These laws initially passed by white legislators in formerly Confederate states to disenfranchise Blacks were cruel in many ways. President Joe Biden said the Georgia bill was “Jim Crow in the 21st century.”
Please let our Senators know that you believe in strengthening the Voting Rights Act—and you disapprove of Jim Crow bills that limit protections for minority voters.
All eligible American voters should be able to have their votes counted.
Barbara C. Reynolds is retired dean of the Whitson-Hester School of Nursing at Tennessee Tech University.