ATLANTA — A new AJC report breaks down how proposed GOP limits on weekend voting in legislation like HB 531 would have an outsized “racial and partisan impact” — despite the fact that “there’s no suspicion of fraud or irregularities” to justify these new anti-voting restrictions.
As detailed by the AJC, Sunday voting limits would greatly restrict voting rights of Black Georgians, given that “about 37% of voters on two Sundays in October were Black, higher than their 30% share of Georgia’s registered voters, according to state election data.” In the article, Reverend Fer’Rell Malone of Macedonia Baptist Church declared that this legislation “is directly aimed at the African American church that has mobilized and utilized Souls to the Polls in the most effective way.”
But it’s not just Democratic counties affected. According to the AJC, counties won both by President Joe Biden as well as former President Donald Trump offered Sunday voting in 2020 — including counties Republicans won by staggering double-digit margins like Camden, Floyd, and Monroe. These counties likewise could face restrictions on Sunday voting if Republicans are able to force through their anti-democratic voter suppression agenda.
Read more from the AJC about how Republicans are trying to attack Sunday voting and Black voting rights in Georgia:
AJC: Plan to limit Georgia Sunday voting disrupts Black church efforts
By Mark Neisse
- The Sunday combination of church and voting, an election-year ritual especially embraced by Black congregations, is at risk in Georgia by a bill that would limit weekend voting hours.
- The legislation targets Sunday voting, though there’s no suspicion of fraud or irregularities. The only disparity is that Sunday voting is offered primarily in heavily Democratic counties, where local governments were more willing to spend tax money to staff polling places on weekends.
- Among many proposed voting measures in Georgia, restrictions on Sunday voting stand out for their racial and partisan impact.
- About 37% of voters on two Sundays in October were Black, higher than their 30% share of Georgia’s registered voters, according to state election data.
- Church leaders say curbing Sunday voting is intended to hinder Black voters, who overwhelmingly favor Democratic Party candidates. Friends and neighbors go to church together, then travel in a caravan of cars or buses to vote, an event known as “Souls to the Polls.”
- “It is directly aimed at the African American church that has mobilized and utilized Souls to the Polls in the most effective way. There’s no doubt about it,” said the Rev. Fer’Rell Malone, senior pastor for Macedonia Baptist Church in Waycross. “They recognize that the Black or brown vote has an enormous amount of power.”
- Most Sunday ballots were cast in metro areas that lean Democratic, such as DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett and Muscogee counties. Several counties that went for Republican President Donald Trump also provided Sunday voting, including Camden, Floyd, Lowndes and Monroe counties.
- HB 531 would impose a second mandatory weekend voting day statewide, either a Saturday or a Sunday, which would have the effect of increasing voting options in rural Republican areas and decreasing them in urban Democratic counties.
- The bill could also result in fewer early voting hours during the week. It sets the default voting hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and gives counties the option to hold polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- The Rev. Lee May, the former CEO of DeKalb County, said he has seen the success of Sunday voting since it started there in 2014. He compared proposals to scale back Sunday voting to poll taxes or literacy tests.
- “There’s no rationale for it other than you’re trying to prevent Black folks who utilize that,” said May, pastor for Transforming Faith Church.