What’s Left: The Georgia Voting Bill SB 202 Is Disenfranchisement Justified by a Lie

The election procedure bill SB. 202 recently passed by the Georgia General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp has drawn corporate boycotts, lawsuits from civil rights groups and outright condemnation from President Joe Biden. Controversy about the bill, and the appropriate response to it, has engulfed U.S. national political discussion. Republican proponents assert that boycotts exaggerate the harm of the limitations on voting laid out in the bill itself.

We clearly don’t know what effect the bills will have in terms of turnout or participation in the next election, but the intention behind the bill is clear — making it harder for certain voters to vote in service of the big lie about election fraud in 2020. 

It is apparently important to reiterate that there was no widespread voter fraud in the last election in Georgia. According to the office of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, out of nearly five million ballots cast in the 2020 election, there were only nine confirmed cases of voter fraud. Four of these cases involved felons attempting to register or vote, which is illegal under Georgia law. These cases prove that Republicans’ performative tightening of election law is not intended to solve an actual problem, but rather to continue to prop up their self-serving lie about the results of the last presidential election. 

The restrictions included in SB. 202 will disproportionately burden working class, urban and high-density communities who previously relied on expanded voting infrastructure like additional ballot drop boxes and expanded early voting hours to be able to cast a ballot. Measures like limiting the drop boxes in Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties to 23 (down from 96 in 2020) will thus have more of an effect on the exact populations from which Democrats draw their support. SB. 202, therefore, represents not only a solution to a made-up problem but also a strategy to target a population who might challenge the power of the Republican establishment in Georgia and strip them of their ability to access the ballot. 

Even worse, the bill restructures election oversight in Georgia, granting power to the assembly to choose the chair or the state board of elections, and therefore, the power to suspend county election officials. These changes are a direct call back to the 2020 election — and would set a dangerous precedent that would allow the party in power to dismiss election officials, disrupt the counting of votes and breed further distrust in election results. 

Making it difficult or impossible for even one of your fellow citizens to exercise their right to vote is a grave violation of public trust. Doing so in service to a lie about the outcome of the last election is even more egregious. The myth of massive voter fraud still holds weight in mainstream Republican politics and so this trend will not stay just in Georgia. According to the Brennan Center, state legislators have introduced 361 bills which include restrictive provisions for voting rights in 47 states. At least 55 bills in 24 states are currently moving through legislatures and 29 have passed at least one chamber. The fight for voting rights does not end in Georgia, and it is crucial that Democrats and their allies keep up the momentum to fight even more of these bills as they come out of state legislatures in the coming months.