Voting Lights Went Out in Georgia Again

Since Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed sweeping– but unnecessary — changes to the state’s voting laws this week, I have not been able to get the once-popular country song: “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” out of my mind.

The song’s lyrics tell us the lights went out, because it was the night “they hung an innocent man.”

What Kemp, the state legislature and other Republican power brokers hoped to achieve with this vindictive overhaul of a voting system that was not broken  — regardless of their tongue-and-cheek  pronouncements to the contrary — was to lynch the progress that voters of color and other members of minority groups have won through hard-fought legal battles, demonstrations, protests and support from right-thinking  fellow Georgians over decades of painful — and sometimes, life-threatening work.

More than once, in the often  blood-thirsty history of this state, innocent men and women, who wanted no more than what was due them as citizens of this commonwealth, and who tried to stand up for their rights, were lynched, or beaten to death, or shot and left for carrion eaters.

According to the online Georgia Encyclopedia: “During the Atlanta  race riot that occurred September 22-24, 1906, white mobs killed dozens of Black Georgians, wounded scores of others, and inflicted considerable property damage. Local newspaper reports of alleged assaults by Black men on white women were the catalyst for the riot, but a number of underlying causes lay behind the outbreak of the mob violence.

“By  the 1880’s, Atlanta had become the hub of the regional economy, and the city’s overall population soared from 89,000 in 1900 to 150,000 in 1910; the Black population was approximately 9,000 in 1880 and 35,000 by 1900. Such growth put pressure on municipal services, increased job competition among Black and white workers, heightened class distinctions, and led the city’s white leadership to respond with restrictions intended to control the daily behavior of the growing working class, with mixed success. Such conditions caused concern among elite whites, who feared the social intermingling of the races, and led to an expansion of Jim Crow segregation, particularly in the separation of white and Black neighborhoods and separate seating areas for public transportation.”

Although this week’s legislative actions are, of course, not “violent” in the same way as some incidents of the past, the more “white-collar” restrictions on voting rights– carried out with a stroke of a pen — are still eerily reminiscent of  the bare-knuckled approaches of the past.

To paraphrase Mark Twain: Reports of the death of Jim Crow have been greatly exaggerated.

Depending on how this new Georgia effort — which is being watched by Republican lawmakers around the country — fares in the courts and elsewhere  — things could, again, take a nastier turn.

Ol’ Jim Crow ain’t dead. Hell, he, apparently,  ain’t even sick. If people of color aren’t vigilant, extremely careful, and don’t keep fighting the good fight, he, (Massa Jim) might come back stronger than ever.

The legislation that Gov. Kemp  signed barely an hour after it left the legislature made the following changes to the state’s voting process, according to coverage by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Absentee ballots must now be verified using driver’s license numbers or other state-issued documentation, instead of voter signatures. The requirement replaces  “signature-matching processes,” even though, according to the AJC,  “more than 200,000 Georgia voters lack a drivers license or a state ID number. That means more obstacles for many registered  voters to overcome before being able to vote.  

Ballot drop boxes will be allowed only inside early voting locations and will be available only during regular business hours, which will certainly make them less useful to voters.

Weekend voting  will be expanded for general elections with two mandatory Saturdays statewide. Counties can add two additional Sundays of early voting, if they choose.

The State Election Board will be able to exercise much more control over county election boards, even to the extend that it can remove county election boards and replace them with an interim elections manager.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot will be 11 days before election day. 

Counties will be required to certify election results within six days, rather the 10 days currently allowed.

As bad as those changes are for thousands of registered voters in this state — many of whom are elderly, have trouble getting around, or work long hours, and/or do not have driver’s licenses ( as many young voters don’t) — there is another provision in the law that I find egregiously cruel and absurd.

  It comes under Voter Assistance. Get this: members of the public are prohibited from distributing food or water to voters waiting in line near a polling place. As if the rest of these Draconian restrictions aren’t bad enough, this one takes the cake! It will be illegal to give tired, hungry, thirsty voters — who have been standing in line for hours, who are afraid to lose their place in line — a cool drink of water.

Such a simple act of kindness from one human being to another will now be illegal in Georgia! 

Republican lawmakers insist— with a straight face, no less — the changes are necessary to restore public confidence in the state’s election system after Joe Biden beat former president Donald Trump in the 2020 election, the first time a Democrat had garnered the majority of Georgia’s electoral votes since 1992.

A run-off to fill two (Georgia) U.S. Senate seats in January also shocked Republican leaders, since both races were won by Democrats, giving that party control of the U.S. Senate. 

Then-President Donald Trump had begun to set the stage to cast doubt on the outcome of the 2020 elections months before the first ballots were ever cast. He relentlessly preached that the expected increase in the use of absentee ballots, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, meant there would be widespread voter fraud. He continued that “fraudulent” claim long after the elections were over, and courts — from the state level to the U.S. Supreme Court — had dismissed scores of challenges to election results.

It is clear Republican leaders in Georgia are disingenuous in their claim of trying to remedy widespread distrust of the election process among Georgia voters. The truthful and better way to do that would have been to simply tell the truth about the recent elections: that there was no widespread voter fraud, period!

  They should never have followed Trump in continuing to try to legitimize one of the biggest political lies in recent history.

Their culpability in propping up Trump’s lies makes their claims for these voting restrictions hard to digest. What they really want is to seriously lower the numbers of people of color, who vote in the state’s elections, and thereby, increase the chances of Republicans continuing to hold power in a state whose demographics are changing by the minute. And so many of the “new” voters seem to prefer policies pushed by Democrats, rather than those loved by Republicans.

President Biden called these initiatives in Georgia and in other states “un-American,” and “sick.”  I concur with his diagnosis.






The Real Voting Fraud

Forget all the bogus claims of voting fraud since the 2020 national elections, and the January run-off races to fill Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats.

Former President Donald Trump was not chased from office through chicanery in the election process. Republicans did not lose control of the U.S. Senate because of voting irregularities, dishonest voting machines, or any other nefarious schemes at the polls.

 The outcomes from those recent elections were due simply to the will of the record number of Americans who voted, exercising their Constitutional right to choose this nation’s leaders. 

Voters wanted change and they got it. Simple as that.

Even former U.S. Attorney General William Barr — who made it his job to protect President Trump’s political and legal flanks — declared that the Justice Department had investigated and found no evidence of widespread fraud. Nothing that could’ve changed the outcomes of the elections.

Here’s the truth: The real “voter fraud” has been the willfully dishonest and loud outcries of fraud (STOP THE STEAL) made by many Republican senators, representatives, others party leaders, and conservative media commentators, who know their claims are lies. But, who also have learned from experience, and from their former mentor and leader, Donald Trump, that there is money to be made, popularity, ratings and power to be had by keeping the populace divided — liberals, conservatives and moderates — at one another’s throats.

Let me say that again, simply: The real voting fraud has been the continued claims of election fraud, by those who know their claims are not true, but figure they and the Republican Party can benefit from the Big Lie.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were duly elected to lead this country for the next four years as President and Vice President. In Georgia, businessman, John Ossoff, and Baptist minister, Ralphael Warnock, are the state’s duly elected and legally seated U.S. Senators.

The Big Lie about the elections is already proving it has the power to wreak havoc on the rights of thousands, perhaps millions, of the nation’s voters, particularly those who are black or brown, or members of other minority groups, who only lately have been able to take advantage of earlier voting-law changes that made it easier for them to exercise their Constitutional right to vote.

Georgia is one of more than 40 states currently working on changes to voting laws and regulations, whose endgame will almost certainly be restrictions on absentee ballets and voting. Measures being discussed include, but are not limited to: who can qualify for absentee ballots; enhanced ID requirements for ballets; the number and placement of absentee ballot drop boxes; the number of days of early voting, and  eliminating some weekend days from the list.

Event though the recent elections proved the value of making voting in this country easier, rather than more difficult, Republicans in State Houses across the country are moving toward more voting restrictions, anyway. Many of them say it is because they feel the need to reassure voters in their states that elections are safe and the results can be trusted.

Such reassurance can be easily accomplished, if those politicians around the country would simply tell their constituents the truth: That there was no voter fraud, that the elections in their communities were safe, and the results were accurate.

Unfortunately, honesty is not the route they are willing to take. And they would surely find it even more difficult to follow that path, because they have spent all these weeks and months lying as if there was no tomorrow. They like their lie, and they’re sticking to it. 

Why? Because they didn’t like the results of the last election. In their minds, an election is only valid, if their side wins.