Atlanta (AP) — Georgia is at the forefront of a party struggle for election rights and law.
Associate Press this week sits with Stacey Abrams, a Democratic candidate for governor and a key voice on access to voting, a drastic tightening of Georgia’s voting rules after the Democratic Party supports the state in the 2020 elections. Talked about a new state law.
The interview is summarized for brevity.
AP: What does this new law mean when Georgians, especially blacks and other minority Georgians, find it difficult to vote?
ABRAMS: Early voting, absentee voting, and dropbox usage are increasing in the 2018 and 2020 elections. And these are all tightened. The change from signature verification (use) to using an ID to submit an absentee ballot is a direct result of a proceeding filed to allow more people to use the absentee ballot.
These are (new) laws that address increased voter voting by limiting, removing, or otherwise impairing the ability to access these requirements. Not brown, blacks can’t vote. It simply removes what you see using for your benefit. Make these opportunities less accessible.
AP: Governor Brian Kemp is willing to defend the law. He focuses on regulations such as codification of early voting on weekends and funding to free state IDs. Judging individually, are there some of these good moves?
ABRAMS: This gives you permission to reduce early voting time. It could be 9 to 5 instead of 7 am to 7 pm, and the county must decide to empower you more. Prior to this, it was assumed that anyone could vote from 7 to 7 (Editor’s Note: Old Georgia law increased the business hours of most counties, but early voting was “normal business.” It was supposed to take place on “hours”. From 9 am to 5 pm, the county can be expanded to a 12-hour time frame.)
I disagree with the characterization that suggests that they gave something that didn’t exist. What they did is actually restricted.
When it comes to free IDs, the concept of free is actually a misnomer. You may not have to pay a fee, but (but) you will have to pay a birth certificate. You have to pay all the paperwork until you can get that ID. It also costs money, especially in rural communities, where there is often no transportation or access to DMVs that are not on all street corners. Therefore, protecting this ID comes at a very realistic cost to voters.
AP: Do you support consumer boycotts and corporate response, such as Major League Baseball moving from Metro Atlanta to All-Star games?
ABRAMS: I grew up in the Deep South. Boycott is why I have the ability to make this argument as a free citizen. I understand the boycott’s impulses, but I also understand that the boycott’s behavior depends on the target and the timeline. I don’t think the boycott at this time would be beneficial to the victims of these bills. I think it is absolutely necessary for companies to show good intentions. They need to publicly condemn these bills, support investment in voting expansion, and support federal voting standards.
AP: Can you talk about how voting is rooted in your joint Methodist faith, grew up with a strong religious background, and your parents are priests?
ABRAMS: I grew up in a family that not only believes in our faith as a religious identity, but also in our faith as a responsibility and a living experience. For me, defending the right to vote is not just about defending it for voters. My point is that we need to extend our right to vote for all communities facing barriers, including people with disabilities, returning citizens (released from prison) and poor youth. Unfortunately, the targets tend to be those very same communities. Therefore, most of the work I do is to raise their voice and protect their voting rights.
AP: In conclusion, could the Democratic Party win in Georgia in 2020 under these new rules? Can I win the governor’s election if I run again?
Abrams: I think it’s possible for the Democrats to win … but I say this: it’s wrong to rule out access in any state, especially under the guise and bald lies that this is an expansion I will. … you shouldn’t think about these laws in the context of who can win the election, unless the Republicans are afraid to lose the election and abuse the system.
AP: The Democratic Party’s pending voting bill in Washington doesn’t replace all state law, but how much can it mitigate the negative effects of state action?
Abrams: It will standardize the law so that our democracy does not depend on our geography. Congress can say that it has a standardized election system that guarantees automatic voter registration, early voting, and no excuses for postal voting. These three factors alone create equal opportunities for voters to participate in elections, regardless of race or region.
AP: Can you see the Democrats go through the voting change without changing the Senate filibuster rules? And how would you be surprised to hear that President Biden says that filibuster is a trace of Jim Crow’s time, but he doesn’t necessarily support a complete abolition of the rules?
Abrams: Disappointed that Senator Joe Manchin is willing to accept the recent change to filibuster, but believes in his good intentions that bipartisan support should be achieved. .. … I believe there is a legitimate argument that opening exceptions to protect the fundamental rights of democracy, and that participation in democracy deserves an exemption from filibuster. I understand the hesitation to completely dispose of it, including the president’s hesitation. I’m worried that if I remove it altogether, I’ll lose control of what happens. It was used by southern racists who claimed civil rights to thwart civil rights, but the original intent was not necessarily based on sneaky racism.
AP: But under the current filibuster rules, is there a scenario where the Voting Rights Act requires the Republican Party to pass 10 votes?
ABRAMS: I don’t think it’s likely. (But) I am a woman of faith. So my approach is to pray for what I need, but work for what I think I have to do.
AP: I have a premise that I will run for governor next year as well. Is there a time frame to publish the decision?
ABRAMS: I’m not thinking about it right now. My focus is to be able to fully participate and hold elections in 2022. Also, all people eligible for (COVID-19) vaccination are poorly serviced, especially in rural areas of southwestern Georgia. We are also working on the restoration of COVID through the Southern Economic Promotion Project, which includes the restoration of highly damaged public health infrastructure throughout the South.
Powell reported from Washington.