To Protect Voters and Democracy, We’re Going to Need to Fight

Last week, Florida Governor DeSantis signed a bill against extreme voters that restricts the use of dropboxes and places additional barriers on those who request postal votes, making it difficult for Floridians to cast their votes. The bill is another major attack on our democracy.

Florida has unfortunately taken a page from Georgia lawmakers. Rather than building on last year’s historic turnout, some Georgian lawmakers are trying to suppress future Georgians’ eligibility to vote.

These legislators were passed and Governor Kemp signed the SB 202 to put up new barriers that make it harder for Georgians to vote. One of the many reasons this law is so harmful is that it makes the work of civic organizations like ours, the Voter Participation Center (VPC) and the Center for Voter Information (CVI) virtually impossible.

We will not stand idly by as some lawmakers attack our democratic process and threaten electoral eligibility – whether in Florida, Texas, Georgia, or in places in between. It is for this reason that we have filed a lawsuit against the Georgian Foreign Minister, Brad Raffensperger, over several harmful provisions in the law of that state.

Such a provision of SB 202 penalizes third party organizations for sending voting requests by email to anyone who recently signed up for postal voting. While there is a five-day grace period, the scale of operations and slowdowns at the USPS make it impossible to remove anyone who has just requested a postal vote.

The law also creates an unsustainable cost burden. It currently costs us 39 cents to produce each mailer and communicate with potential voters, but SB 202 has a potential $ 100 penalty for duplicate mailers. That fee would add a 25,000 percent cost per mailer, and when it gets mailed to millions of eligible voters in Georgia, it becomes unbearable.

The new law also emphasizes local election officials, who are now responsible for emailing an up-to-date list of applicants to third parties without providing additional resources to those officials.

These efforts to derail voting programs via email are a slippery slope. The Georgian legislation already serves Florida and other states as a model for further restrictions.

Our work focuses on the New American Majority – people of color, young people and unmarried women – and their ability to make their voices heard across the country. The new Florida and Georgia laws are clearly aimed at making it difficult for these voters to stay engaged.

The future of our work in Georgia depends on this law being repealed. If the law applies, we will likely have to stop the work we did to expand email access across the state of Georgia. And that would be really detrimental as the VPC and CVI helped over 600,000 residents of Georgia to vote by mail during the general election and the Senate runoff.

During the pandemic, we saw the importance of email voting for those communities that cannot easily take the polls in person. Not only was it safer to vote by post during Covid-19, but the expansion of the mail-in voting also increased voter turnout and allowed more people to take part in the election process without restriction.

We must never forget that America is a democracy, and voting is at the core of who we are. In our democracy, elections should be a competition of ideas and not a competition about who can vote. Through our lawsuit and our work to register and engage voters, we will ensure that every American has their voice heard.

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