Fears Over Fate of Democracy Leave Many Voters Frustrated and Resigned
Democracy was in jeopardy in Georgia even before a contentious election was called and voters were confronted with new restrictions on the right to vote.
There was a reason, in fact, that Georgia Republicans used the word “democracy” in their election victory in the 2012 gubernatorial election. And it was not a coincidence.
This week, two weeks after the election results were announced, Georgia voters have had more than enough time to judge whether their system of government is still viable. As of Oct. 19, there were 15,000 absentee ballots to go before the registrar of voters for absentee ballots. Of those, 7,000 had already been counted. But as of Nov. 4, there were still 9,000 absentee ballots to be counted, more than twice as many as there are days in a normal year.
A few days before the election, the Election Protection Coalition, a nonprofit that provides services to voters like voter registration, early vote management, and absentee ballot counting for Georgia, found its polling place in DeKalb County had yet to be opened as required. It was a huge red flag that could have jeopardized thousands of votes.
It was this same situation in the very first days of the election that led Governor Sonny Perdue to call a special session of the Georgia Legislature for Oct. 8, giving lawmakers time to implement new restrictions that will remain in effect until the end of the year.
The Republican-controlled Georgia House refused to accept Democrats’ proposal to increase the minimum wage from $5.85 per hour to $7.25. In the House, Republicans had blocked such a proposal for more than two weeks, then added a provision that would have made it unenforceable.
Despite the fact that the minimum wage has not been increased since 2009, most of the other election laws implemented during the special session have also raised voter turnout. For example, the law requiring photo identification for voting will allow a voter to cast a provisional ballot if he or she does not have photo identification, regardless of whether the voter has already registered or voted. Another requirement, requiring voter registration in person, will eliminate the need for voters to mail in their absentee ballots.
The law that gives a voter’s provisional ballot to another registered voter in the county who has a photo identification will also make it easier to cast a provisional ballot.
And the law making it illegal to knowingly give somebody