Jim Crow 2.0: Georgia outlaws giving water to voters waiting in hours-long lines

Voting should be a quick and simple process. In many places, you can show up at a polling place, request a ballot, verify your identity, and fill out the ballot in 15 minutes.

But states with a history of racial discrimination are often different. They may erect artificial barriers that are meant to deter – or even intimidate – voters. The barriers are usually meant to target people of color but sometimes young voters and college students – who may not have the knowledge or the proper identification – find themselves caught up in the voter suppression web as well.

Georgia is a perfect example of this. Just last October, the state had 10-hour long lines in counties with large black populations. This, by the way, was in the midst of a pandemic where Georgians – particularly the elderly and immuno-compromised – were quite literally putting their life at risk just to vote.

It’s not like state officials were caught by surprise. Back in June 2020, Georgia conducted its primary elections. Voters in Atlanta waited for hours. Volunteers provided bottled water and sandwiches to make the wait a little more bearable. It’s not far-fetched to imagine that those volunteers saved lives as voters waited in the heat for hours on end.

What was the reaction from Georgia’s Republican-controlled legislature and Governor Brian Kemp to the outrageously long lines at polling places? Surely, their concern was making sure that this never happened again, right?

Think again.

Their concern was making sure that the state’s black voters – who had helped Joe Biden become the first Democrat to win the state since 1992 (and also helped elect a pair of Democratic senators in January) – would have to suffer even more if they dared to exercise their right to vote.

The newly-enacted voter suppression law “criminalize[s] any attempt to approach voters in line, even if only to give them food or water.”

And if you want to avoid those long lines? Good luck. The law limits the use of convenient and secure ballot drop boxes, shortens the window to request a mail-in ballot, and restricts in-person early voting hours.

In short, this law is meant to suppress voting among the state’s black voters. Rather than expand the number of polling places and make vote-by-mail easier after voters waited for hours during two separate elections last year, Republicans in the state legislature (along with Governor Kemp) decided to make voting even more onerous in order to hurt Democrats. That’s morally reprehensible.

Stacey Abrams is right. This is Jim Crow 2.0.

This article was originally published on Democracy Watch. It was re-published with permission.

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