Elections, they say, have consequences.
If this is true, then the Nov. 3, 2020, choice of Joe Biden over Donald Trump and the Jan. 5 Georgia Senate run-offs that ushered Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock into the Senate may turn out to be the most consequential of the new decade.
On March 10, the House of Representatives voted 220-211 to pass the American Rescue Act, a $1.9 trillion health and economic relief plan that will help everyday citizens through what is hopefully the last phase of a year-long lockdown of society due to COVID-19.
It will put more vaccine shots into arms sooner. It will provide $1,400 to nearly 150 million people to help pay for food, utilities and other bills. It increases child care credits for families. It increases healthcare options in an affordable way, lifts children out of poverty and provides Paycheck Protection Program loans to the small business owners who should have gotten those loans in earlier relief packages but lost out to bigger businesses or celebrity owned “sidelines.”
Schools will be safely re-opened; unemployment benefits, though reduced to $300 per week, will be extended for a longer period; emergency paid leave will be provided to 106 million Americans; there will be a continuation of the eviction moratorium.
And those are only a few of the highlights. This plan was carefully and thoughtfully crafted to beat back COVID-19 and reinvigorate the economy.
That this bill was able to pass the Senate is a direct result of Sens. Ossoff and Warnock winning their elections. Had the Senate Majority not passed into Democratic hands, this bill would never have seen the light of day. Despite a more than 70% approval rating among all Americans, not one Republican in the House or Senate voted for the plan.
There are many people to thank for the passage of this bill. Here in Georgia, Stacey Abrams and her decade of activism on behalf of Black voters gets the lion’s share of the credit, as does the New Georgia Project and Fair Fight Action organizations she founded.
Abrams is now nationally respected and celebrated for her relentless efforts to expand the electorate and boost voter turnout, and when she speaks about voting rights, people of all political ideologies listen. She is a defender of liberty, passionately securing and fighting for access to the ballot box in the most expansive ways possible.
But per Newton’s third law of motion, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It seems that scientific truth carries over into the political realm as well.
Barely had Ossoff and Warnock been sworn into office than the Republicans that control both houses of Georgia’s General Assembly drafted draconian voting rights bills. These bills would:
- roll back access to vote by mail;
- create additional identification and affidavit requirements to vote by mail for those still eligible;
- restrict early voting access and penalize Black voters by eliminating the Sundays that are traditionally used by Black churches to increase turnout with their “Souls to the Polls” programs.
It would also allow the legislature to interfere with the way local election boards function and eliminate many voter drop boxes. “We are seeing in Georgia that some folks have decided they are afraid of the voters and they want to silence their voices,” said Warnock.
Georgia is not alone in building new barriers to voting that disproportionately impact people of color. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, more than 250 bills restricting voting have been introduced in 43 states; some states, like Iowa, have already signed them into law.
This despite the fact Georgia had three ballot audits that determined no fraud occurred in the expanded use of mail-in ballots by Georgians, and Gov. Brian Kemp certified the state’s Electoral College votes for Biden.
But in addition to court cases against these bills already being threatened, the current Democratic-controlled federal government has two bills that could counter the revisionism to pre-1965 voting that Georgia Republicans seem to be attempting.
These are HR1 (S1 in the Senate) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. HR1/S1, also known as the For the People Act, would expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the impact and influence of “dark money” in politics, put limits on partisan gerrymandering and establish new ethics laws for holders of federal office.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will protect voters of color from voter suppression and racial discrimination. It is designed to retrofit parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act weakened by the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby v. Holder, which cleared the way for states to restrict elections in ways being seen in Georgia right now.
Like Biden’s American Rescue Plan, the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will likely be passed with only Democratic votes.
But I suspect they will pass. Newton’s third law guarantees it.
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