What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Georgia’s new election legislation highlights stark divide on voting access

Republican state legislatures across the country are moving rapidly to pass new voting laws, amid former President Donald Trump's continued false claims of election fraud. Lisa Desjardins takes us to the battleground state of Georgia and explains the raging debate.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Republican-majority state legislatures across the country are moving rapidly to pass new voting laws, amid former President Donald Trump's continued false claims of election fraud.

    Lisa Desjardins takes us to one battleground state and explains the raging debate.

  • Protesters:

    Vote no on HB531!

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In Georgia this week, the sounds of American democracy still struggling, and over an essential trait, voting itself.

  • Protesters:

    This is what democracy looks like!

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Outside the statehouse, protesters chant about access, fearful their ability to vote is under threat.

    Inside, the Republican-led legislature says the issue is security, pushing sweeping bills to rewrite state voting laws, blaming 2020.

  • State Rep. Alan Powell:

    If you didn't see confusion this year, I don't know what you saw.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Georgia's lower chamber, the House, has already passed HB531, which cuts down early voting on weekends, adds I.D. requirements, and shortens the time to get an absentee ballot. The state Senate is also considering ending no-excuse absentee voting and automatic voter registration at the DMV.

    Debate has been sharply polarized.

  • State Rep. Jan Jones:

    House Bill 531 will greatly improve our election processes for all voters.

  • State Rep. Jasmine Clark:

    HB531 is textbook voter suppression.

  • State Rep. David Dreyer:

    Voter suppression is racist. Voter suppression is white supremacy.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    This after record turnout flipped Georgia blue for President Joe Biden and in two close U.S. Senate races. It was a surge of civic engagement, like from James Hammond, who signed up as a first-time poll manager.

  • James Hammond:

    I went from in less than a year being the guy that just comes in, presses the button to being the person to make sure that the election is actually carried out fairly and equitably for all of the residents in the area.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    He says he saw passionate voters and a dispassionate, secure system.

  • James Hammond:

    There was very little room for you to have voter fraud.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Courts agreed, rejecting then-President Donald Trump's campaign assertions of fraud. From Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, same conclusion.

  • Brad Raffensperger:

    We have never found systemic fraud, not enough to overturn the election.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And yet at a conservative conference in Orlando on Sunday, Mr. Trump again falsely raised the idea of fraud.

  • Donald Trump:

    We should eliminate the insanity of the mass and very corrupt mail-in voting. And the Republicans have to do something about it.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Republicans across the country are heeding that call, some 250 election law bills in 43 states, concentrated most in swing states Trump lost. The Brennan Center for Justice is tracking it.

    Its president, Michael Waldman:

  • Michael Waldman:

    There's a surge of restrictive voting laws being pushed by legislators, three times as many as just two years ago.

  • Andrea Young:

    They have the power to change the rules. And they are using that power to pick their own voters.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Andrea Young heads the ACLU in Georgia. She believes Republicans in the statehouse are attempting a power grab by directly limiting voting.

  • Andrea Young:

    The result in November was an accurate reflection of the votes cast in the state of Georgia. And now that system is something that is under attack. There are 50 bills that would unravel the system that allowed five million Georgians to cast ballots.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But Republicans cry that this is unfair. They say they want to restore credibility to elections now distrusted by Trump voters.

    State Senator Butch Miller.

  • State Sen Butch Miller:

    When we have not just dozens but hundreds of people who call me and say, why is it that, when I go to vote in person, I have to show a photo I.D., but I can send in a request and just send in my ballot and nobody knows who it is?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Do you see evidence that the system is allowing for fraud right now?

  • Butch Miller:

    There's clearly inefficiencies. Evidence of fraud that would overtake or change the outcome of the election? No. Are there inefficiencies? Yes.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But critics scoff, saying the laws would affect some voters far more, those who are older and those who are Black or brown.

  • Andrea Young:

    African Americans are less likely to have a government-issued photo I.D. We think that that's discriminatory.

  • Michael Waldman:

    Especially in a place like Georgia, with a deep history of racial restrictions on voting. Now you don't see dogs and billy clubs, but you see laws that are pretty plainly targeted at Black voters.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We asked state Senator Miller.

    Have you reflected on that history and why these voting reforms might…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Butch Miller:

    As a matter of fact, I have.

    There are wrongs in history that we can't right, that we can't make well, that we can't erase. But we will make sure that every voter has access to the ballot box. How we do that is to make sure that we have dotted it all the I's and crossed all the T's.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Of course, Southern Jim Crow laws literally asked Blacks to dot I's and cross T's, to take literacy tests to vote. We pointed out to Senator Miller that supporters of those racist laws also said they were aimed at election integrity.

    He disavowed Jim Crow laws and said this effort is different.

  • Butch Miller:

    I don't think there's any obstruction to access. All we have to do is verify that the person is who they claim they are. And that's all.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Is that all? One voter's verification is another voter's barrier. In Atlanta, poll manager James Hammond does not like the general direction he sees.

  • James Hammond:

    Every American should have the right to vote, and we should not we should not block them from having access at any at any point.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Many believe that access now hangs in the balance.

Listen to this Segment