Georgia Republicans are pushing a bill that would dramatically shorten early voting for city elections. The effort is the latest to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s ruling last year on the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which made it easier for certain areas to change election rules in ways that hurt racial minorities.
The measure, introduced this week by State Rep. Brian Fleming, would cut early voting days from a minimum of 16 (some counties currently choose to offer more) down to six. The change would exclude the state’s seven consolidated cities, which include Athens, Augusta, and Columbus, and would apply only to municipal elections—not county, state, or federal contests. [...]
Georgia’s early voting bill is just the latest in a series of conservative efforts to reduce local-level minority political power that have gained momentum thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling. Georgia Republicans have already pushed through a bill that would move Augusta’s elections from November to June, when black voters are far less likely to make it to the polls—a tactic pulled from the Jim Crow era. Conservatives in Beaumont, Texas have tried to oust the school board’s black majority without an election. And Pasadena, Texas is looking to move to an at-large voting system that will reduce Hispanic representation. All those moves likely would have been—or at first were—blocked by the federal government under the VRA.
“There’s been significant attention on state-level changes, because those seem to be changes that have partisan consequences,” Spencer Overton, a voting rights expert at George Washington University, told msnbc in December, referring to voter ID laws in Texas and North Carolina, among other state-level restrictions. “That overlooks the real problem, and that’s discrimination on the local level.”
“It’s difficult to see when politicians abuse the process and engage in voting discrimination,” Overton added. “A lot of that activity was deterred because these local politicians knew their changes would be reviewed, and they needed to be on good behavior. Unfortunately we don’t have that check anymore.”