Press Statement: ACLU of Georgia Sees Impact of State Anti-Voter Law on Georgia Primary Runoff Election
ATLANTA – On Tuesday, June 21, the anniversary of the Mississippi Burning Murders, a Georgia elections worker testified in a January 6 hearing about the horrific threats she and her family experienced. Meanwhile, a disastrously scheduled Georgia Primary Runoff brought extremely low turnout and further burdened overworked election officials. Reflecting on the day, the ACLU of Georgia is reminded that not enough has changed in 60 years in the struggle for voter rights.
“Blocking Black voters’ access to the ballot and diminishing the value of the votes they manage to cast through heroic efforts is nothing new in Georgia. S.B. 202 is a 21st century piece of legislation, but at the root, it is nourished by the same soil that produced literacy tests, grandfather clauses and counting jelly beans in a jar. The slyness of the bill’s language should not distract from the severity of its impacts,” said Andrea Young, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia.
The four-week runoff mandated by Senate Bill 202, which Gov. Kemp signed into law in 2021, has put a tremendous amount of stress on election officials and voters, both of whom were underprepared for Tuesday’s election. Before S.B. 202, runoff elections were held nine weeks after a primary election. Now, a hurried four-week turnaround creates undue burdens for election officials, poll workers, and voters alike. Low voter turnout is an impact of the new law.
Poll worker shortages were particularly dire for smaller precincts across Georgia. Many poll worker vacancies went unfilled, leaving voters with insufficient resources for a smooth and hassle-free election day. Election officials, overwhelmed by the shortened deadlines from S.B. 202, are calling for a return to longer voting periods.
“After 2020, when the rollout of cumbersome voting equipment and the COVID-19 lockdown combined to create an emergency poll worker shortage across the state, Georgia decided against all wisdom to make the job of working the polls harder,” said Vasu Abhiraman, Senior Policy Counsel at the ACLU of Georgia, who served as an assistant manager at a DeKalb County polling location for the runoff. “Tuesday, many elections offices in Georgia struggled to find enough poll workers willing to work a 14-hour day for the runoff just four weeks after the primary. I’m proud of the volunteers recruited by the ACLU of Georgia who stepped into the void to work the polls, but nothing excuses the tremendously difficult situation that Georgia elections offices, poll workers, and voters face due to S.B. 202’s four-week runoff cycle.”
Tuesday’s runoff took place on the 58th anniversary of the 1964 Mississippi burning murders, which inspired national momentum for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The June 21st anniversary commemorates the abduction and subsequent murders in Philadelphia, Mississippi of three Civil Rights activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, who were working to register Black voters. The testimony of Wandrea “Shaye” Moss during the January 6th hearings reminds us, violence and intimidation around elections continue today and are inspired by the same motives – to keep people from voting, and to keep people’s votes from counting. Though the legacies of voter suppression and vigilante violence live on in Georgia, the ACLU of Georgia will continue to show resilience and remain dedicated to democracy as we work hard to get all Georgians to the polls in November.
The ACLU of Georgia remains committed to protecting and enhancing the election system to ensure that all citizens may exercise their civic duty. Anyone interested in taking action to help our elections run smoothly should visit https://acluga.org/pollworker/ to learn more about being a poll worker.