Georgia faith leaders from a thousand churches in the state rallied outside of the state capitol to advocate for the passing of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act. According to the proposal, “The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act responds to current conditions in voting today by restoring the full protections of the original, bipartisan Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was last reauthorized by Congress in 2006, but gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013.”
The group’s protest follows a call to boycott Home Depot for not speaking out against the recently passed voting law, which they believe is a form of voter suppression. The GOP-controlled legislature passed the new law and Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed it at the end of March.
According to CBS News, some major restrictions of the law include, ID requirements not just for in-person voting but also for mail-in voting, it regulates drop boxes, shortens the time frame for requesting and returning mail ballots, bans food and drink distribution to voters in line by non-poll workers, and shortens the runoff election period by five weeks.
Voting rights advocates and members of the democratic party are outraged by the expansive new law. They believe this law is a veiled attempt to construct unnecessary hurdles that will make it more difficult for some minorities and poorer voters to cast a ballot.
C.E.O of The King Center and daughter to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. Bernice King said, “I’m here because I care about humanity, I’m here because I care about the life of our democracy, [and] I’m here because there is a major assault on the crown of my father’s work, “The Voting Rights Act.”
The Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger claimed that the new bill keeps voters safe. “What you’ll see that the bill does is it’s a measured piece of legislation that moves away from signature match and it moves to drivers license which is a reliable and secure way of identity [for a voter] under the absolute ballot process.”
King believes that this ongoing fight can’t end. “This is the fight of our lifetime. I call upon these corporate leaders to support democracy and not give place to demagoguery,” she said during the rally. She also echoed what she believed her father would say. “I hear my father calling out to you, ‘we need leaders in love, not with money, but in love with justice.'”
Raffensperger disagrees with the assertion of the faith group and believes the new law helps expand access to the ballot.
“I think people need to understand that we’ve actually expanded early voting to make it more accessible to more voters, but we’re also putting in the appropriate progress to make sure that we can remove any questions about who those voters are that are voting absentees,” Raffensperger said.
The Rev. Timothy McDonald, First Iconium Baptist Church, Atlanta summarized the resolve of all those involved in the rally.
“No matter how many pieces of legislation you may unjustly pass, we are not going back. We have been there and done that.”