Civil rights organizations have sounded the alarm again on voter suppression. This time, Georgia Republicans are trying to pass a bill that would put an end to Black parishioners voting early either before or after they have attended church services in Atlanta. Yes, they want a Suppression Sunday.
But there’s more to the story: GOP lawmakers want to also reduce the number of evening hours that voters can head to the polls. The majority-Republican House Governmental Affairs Committee approved Senate Bill 363 on Wednesday, saying that polling places should close at 7 p.m. instead of 8 p.m., and that voting should be limited to only one weekend day, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
This move, opposed by the committee’s five Democrats, is undoubtedly controversial.
“The impact of this bill is to eliminate the extra hour of voting opportunity that’s been granted to city of Atlanta voters,” Democratic Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, who represents Decatur, said. “So this is anti-voting rights for Atlanta.”
The bill will stop African-American voters, who make up the majority of the city’s population, from turning out in droves as part of Souls to the Polls events, a voter mobilization effort for Sunday voting in Georgia. Curtailing voting hours is also out-of-sync with Georgia regulations.
Atlanta can keep its precincts open until 8 p.m. for municipal elections, according to a state law passed in the 1970s.
Voting must be allowed on Saturdays for elections with state or federal candidates, but Sunday polling has been a hot-button issue. Georgia Republicans have been against Sunday voting since at least 2014, the year that DeKalb County extended early voting hours to include the Sunday before Election Day, according to Think Progress.
If the bill passes, activists will most likely be coming in full force against GOP legislators. They, along with Democrats, may oppose the bill under the Voting Rights Act after voter ID laws, same-day registration eliminations and more suppression efforts have disproportionately targeted voters of color.
Voting right advocates have already sounded off about the bill on Twitter.