Why Georgia Senate runoffs may hinge on Black voting rights

www.csmonitor.com
7 min read
fairly difficult
Georgia's runoff votes will determine control of the U.S. Senate. Equally front and center is the issue of what constitutes fair access to voting.
"This is a defining moment in American history," says the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who if elected would become the first Black Democrat to win a U.S. Senate seat from the South. "And Georgia is at the center of it."

Significantly, according to the secretary of state's website, Georgia has become the first state in the country to implement the "trifecta" of automatic voter registration, at least 16 days of early voting, and no excuse needed to vote absentee. But local Republicans aim to roll back some of these measures and impose new constraints.

Still, many here say that the fight to expand voting access is far from over. Fair Fight, the organization Stacey Abrams founded in the wake of her 2018 governor's race loss, has taken aim at what it calls modern forms of voter suppression, such as purging registration lists and unnecessarily long lines at polling stations. Activists also cite gerrymandering, photo ID requirements, and signature match laws as efforts to discourage minority turnout.

When early voting ended last Friday in runoff elections for both of Georgia's U.S. Senate seats, a record-breaking 3 million ballots had been cast. And Black voters made up a larger share of early voters than they did in November's election.

Andrew Young looks at the long line of mostly Black voters that wraps around the C.T. Martin Natatorium and Recreation Center on a dark, cold, and wet morning on the first day of early voting for Georgia's Senate runoff elections, and his eyes brim with tears.

"People died for this right," says the former Atlanta mayor, congressman, United Nations ambassador, and civil rights activist. "I knew many of them."

He recalls the first voter registration drive he worked on ahead of the 1956 elections, when the Ku Klux Klan rallied nearby. A friend to the late Georgia Rep. John Lewis and Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Young helped organize the 1960s civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham and Selma, Alabama, and he was with Dr. King in Memphis…
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