History Repeats Itself: Georgia and Voter Suppression

By: Ethan Mathieu

On April 2nd, 2021, Georgia’s state legislature passed new sweeping legislation that expands voting restrictions. Among new guidelines, voters will have less time to file an absentee ballot, stricter ID laws were put in place, voting “drop boxes” were all but eliminated, and it is now, infamously, illegal to hand out water to those waiting in line to vote. This follows President Joe Biden’s upset victory in Georgia, a state that had voted red in the last 6 presidential election cycles prior to Biden's, and the Georgia senate elections of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossof. Due largely to efforts made by 2018 Gubernatorial Candidate Stacy Abrams, the political leaning of the state had palpably shifted by 2020 and the Republican establishment has seemingly recognized and responded to such a shift. But what do these changes mean to Georgians and is this even a new phenomenon? 

 

Voter suppression is older than one might think. During the Era of Reconstruction (~1865-77) that followed the Civil War, former states of the Confederacy passed laws to undermine the 14th and 15th Amendment. Furthermore, the Ku Klux Klan intiminated Black voters, driving many away from the even trying to exercise their right to vote.  The root cause of this uptick in blockades to the vote was the threat of the new voting bloc of African-Americans posed to white supremacy. Just as the Republican establishment today fears the South, one of their largest bases of power, shifting toward the Democratic Party, former confederates in the years following the Civil War did all they could to maintain any semblance of their influence. What we see in Georgia is history repeating itself.

 

Throughout the ensuing centuries, the vote of African-Americans was further curbed until one man sought to fight for change. Part of Martin Luther King Jr’s Strategy to get the Civil Rights Act of 1965 passed was to demonstrate injustice. Through flamboyant marches and daring rallies, Black activists sought to provide a illustrate some of the abuse they were facing at the hands of systemic racism. In order to gain the eyes of the nation, some shock was necessary. Part of the reason why the Selma march was so effective was the capture of the police cavalry rush on video; it brought the brutality straight into the American home.

 

Today, that illustration has moved to the online sphere. With the advent of social media, everyone can be instantly put on the same page as to what is being fought against at any present moment. Just as voter suppression has persisted, the tools utilized to try and prevent it have as well.

 

There will be another Georgia, that is inevitable. How the population chooses to respond, however, will help dictate the fate of our fragile republic.