ATLANTA – On Monday, March 26th at 11.A.M community groups, faith leaders, and religious congregations will hold a press conference on the steps of the State Capitol to oppose Senate Bill 363, which seeks to curb the voice of people of color at the ballot box by limiting early voting opportunities.
The sponsors of the legislation to limit early weekend voting to only one day are well aware that many church and civic groups support their constituencies in their efforts to vote early. In addition to limiting the days for early voting, this proposed legislation would eliminate a county’s ability to extend voting hours on the weekend.
In 2016, more than 170,000 Georgians voted early on weekends, but this bill targets the more than 52,000 who voted during extended weekend hours. 53% of those who voted during extended weekend hours were people of color, compared to 35% of the electorate overall. This bill will reduce voter participation in affected counties for all voters, but particularly Black voters. In Georgia as elsewhere, congregations have used such strategies as “Souls to the Polls” to increase voter participation. The legislators sponsoring this bill are threatened by increased numbers of Black voters and are engaging in a strategy to decrease voter turnout.
Helen Butler the Executive Director of the Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda states “It is obvious that this bill is not about saving money or fairness as the proponents of this bill claim, but it is really about preventing people, Black people, from participating in our democracy. In this day and age, you would think that people would focus on issues and let voters decide but instead they continually attempt to limit voter participation”.
“Sunday voting offers a common-sense correction to low voter turnout. It provides ordinary Georgia families who cannot so easily get to the polls on Election Day, an additional opportunity to exercise that basic and sacred American right – the right to vote” says Reverend Dr. Raphael Warnock, Senior Pastor of the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Advocates promise that if this legislation passes it will be immediately challenged in court as a violation of the Voting Rights Act, of 1965 as another attempt to diminish the voting rights of people of color in the State of Georgia.
Also joining the Coalition for the Peoples Agenda at the press conference will be the ACLU of Georgia, GA AFLCIO, Georgia Alliance of Social Justice, Let America Vote, New American Pathways, New Georgia Project, The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus and others.