Yesterday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into law a sweeping set of election measures targeted at restricting access to voting and suppressing Black voters and voters of color across the state from participating in future elections. The new law imposes stricter voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, empowers state officials to take over local elections boards, limits the use of ballot drop boxes, and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water.
These egregious actions to suppress the vote are being imposed despite all of the evidence from the most recent Georgia election that no voter fraud was occurring, that voter turnout improved, and that participation in democracy was enhanced. The Brennan Center for Justice catalogued voter suppression actions that are underway in 43 of our 50 states. The Georgia legislation is extreme but not unusual in this season of undermining our democracy. And for the state government of Georgia, that seems to be a problem. Because if you make it easier to vote, people do. And voters want to elect officials who will actually serve the wider electorate. Somehow actually working for all the people, not just your white, wealthier friends, seems to be anathema to many elected officials in Georgia and far too many other states.
Why is this a science issue? Because the science of democracy helps us understand what works in breaking down barriers to voting. Because the science also tells us that communities whose votes are suppressed suffer policy consequences of weaker public health and safety protections, poor health and more environmental damage. And the science tells us that the very measures that Georgia passed into law and other states are rushing to put in place, work as intended (but not as described by Gov. Kemp!) in suppressing Black voters, Latinx voters, Indigenous voters, and other voters from marginalized communities. They are inherently racist and work to maintain the status quo. We know this from the data and scientific analysis.
Voter suppression efforts across the country will be challenged in court undoubtedly, and hopefully, science will help the courts to turn them back. Congress is trying to strengthen voting rights too via the For the People Act (which passed the House and is in the Senate) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The Union of Concerned Scientists supports these efforts to strengthen voting rights and stop voters suppression efforts like those in Georgia. Will you help?