February 23, 2021 - State Representative Michael Smith (D-Marietta), chair of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus (GLBC) Policy Committee, issued the following statement regarding the voting and election legislation recently introduced during the 2021 legislative session:
“The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus Policy Committee was established by State Senator Tonya P. Anderson (D-Lithonia), chair of the GLBC, to monitor and take action on legislation that is impactful to Black Georgians and other communities of concern. Those of us entrusted with this enormous responsibility do not take it lightly. It is important for our constituents to see their caucus working in one accord to protect their interests.
“We believe it necessary to speak about the flurry of legislation being introduced in both chambers on voting and elections. Since the last count, there are approximately 30 bills addressing an array of these topics.
“The 2020 election had a profound impact on our state. In the midst of COVID-19, more than 5 million citizens voted by absentee ballot, early voting or in-person on Election Day. It was a great display of civic responsibility and an even greater display of county election officials offering unprecedented service to ensure votes were cast safely and securely.
“We now face numerous bills to either expand voting access or constrict it. Our criteria for supporting or opposing legislation, whether it pertains to voting, education or health care, is centered on improving the lives of Black people and protecting their civil and human rights.
“We are encouraged by the numerous bills which seek to expand voting access, like House Bill 113, which was introduced by GLBC member State Representative Kimberly Alexander (D-Hiram). If passed and enacted, it would allow eligible voters to register and vote on the same day. HB 113 can increase voter turnout, especially for low income and communities of color, remedy inaccurate voter rolls and reduce the need for provisional balloting. For these reasons, we strongly support HB 113.
“We have also seen numerous bills claiming to add greater security and protections to our elections. These measures, in our opinion, are not based on any objective, data driven, evidence-based assessment of the issue but solely with the intention to undermine Black voters and other communities of concern.
“To date, there has been no substantive information provided to warrant such drastic action nor have we received any indication as to what implementation will cost our counties. We do not even have clarity if these measures pass state and federal constitutional muster. As a committee, we are in agreement that these bills are a blatant attempt to ensure that the 2020 election cycle was an aberration and not a reflection of our political future – future where Black voters will be prominent and relevant.
“Moving forward, we intend to aggressively oppose legislation that undermines Black voter participation, while being equally aggressive in our support of measures that advance the democratization of our elections.”
Established in 1975, the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus is a 501(c)3 non-profit, nonpartisan organization comprised of 68 Georgia House and Senate members.
For more information about the GLBC, visit gablackcaucus.org.