The Jim Crow Laws in Sheep's Clothing

Nearly two months have passed since the inauguration of Joe Biden, and yet some state legislatures maintain focus on the 2020 election. No doubt the new voting bills proposed in Georgia and Texas are a response to this election, which many Republicans view as fraudulent and falsified. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, himself, stated that “significant reforms ... were needed” after the 2020 elections. He and other Republicans seemingly took this to heart in the passing of new legislation.

 

On March 25, Georgia implemented a new set of voting regulations, sponsored by state Republicans. Among these changes are a photo ID requirement for absentee voting, a smaller time window, and fewer voting boxes for ballot drop-off. A week later, Texas Republicans passed similar restrictions that include lessened poll hours and options to vote. In both states, Democrats feel that the voting limits are unnecessarily restrictive toward voters, especially voters of color and other marginalized groups. In Texas, specifically, more than half of early voters in 2020 were people of color. Because of this correlation, Democratic state Senator Carol Alvarado asked, “who are you really targeting when you're trying to get rid of drive-thru voting?” In Georgia, voting activist groups filed a lawsuit to oppose their new voting law. President Joe Biden also voiced his disapproval of these restriction efforts, while Former President Donald Trump praised Georgia after what he calls “the travesty of the 2020 Presidential Election, which can never be allowed to happen again.” While Republicans feel they are working to protect election security, Democrats and people of color question the fairness of representation in voting groups.

 

In contrast, a federal For the People Act is being considered that would decrease voting regulations. Democrats feel new restrictions are unnecessary because of a lack of evidence to support ideas of voter fraud. A report by MITRE Corp., a nonprofit, stated that there was “no evidence of fraud, manipulation, or uncorrected error” in the eight battleground states of the 2020 elections. Despite this finding, nearly 70% of Republicans believe the election results were falsified. Republican state Rep. Barry Fleming chairs a new committee that aims to ensure “voting is secure, and that someone’s vote cannot be stolen.” In contrast, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called these new election policies “Jim Crow in the 21st century, rearing its ugly head once again.” Republicans and Democrats present a night and day contrast between their goals: one seeks to protect elections, while the other voices concerns about systemic racism.

 

While each party has their own take on election policies, what does the general population think? It depends on certain restrictions. For example, the general public of Georgia largely opposes their state’s new prohibition of food and drink in lines to vote, while mostly supporting the ID requirement for absentee voting. Though no issue is clear-cut, it is evident that the views of politicians and their constituents do not entirely match. The real question lies in political representation: both in elections and in policymaking, whose voices are being heard?