First modification: Last modification:
Atlanta (United States) (AFP) – Under gray skies in an African American suburb of Atlanta, Mardie Hill knocks on doors. Her charm is an antidote to an unusually cold spring afternoon.
The 64-year-old grandmother has been going door-to-door for more than 15 years to encourage residents who are otherwise not exercising their hard-earned right to vote.
The state of Georgia, in the deep South of the country, is about to become ground zero for both parties in the November midterm elections, which have strong implications for the presidency of Joe Biden and the US Congress.
But casting ballots has become more difficult, Hill says, amid a barrage of unprecedented restrictions that have made the electoral landscape even more confusing.
“One year you’ll have a set of rules, and the next year you’ll have lines drawn where they weren’t drawn before,” he told AFP during a recent “get out the vote” campaign by civic group New Georgia Project.
“And we need to ask our politicians: Why do they do it? We need to hold them accountable. ‘Why do they have to keep changing things?'”
Like all Republican-led states, Georgia has spent Democrat Biden’s term reiterating his defeated opponent Donald Trump’s baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 election. That’s why they imposed restrictive election laws that opponents see as an attack on democracy. .
After three presidential vote recounts and the failure of multiple lawsuits brought by the Trump campaign, no evidence of significant voter fraud was found in that key stronghold.
However, the Republican-controlled Georgia legislature passed the Voting Integrity Act of 2021. It is seen as a law so far from reality that it makes it a crime to hand out water to voters waiting in line if those handing it out are not election workers.
That controversial legislation also contains numerous limitations on access to the vote, including the reduction of the deadline to request absentee ballots and new, stricter identification requirements.
The polls have also been reduced and mobile voting centers are practically prohibited.
Long lines to vote and unequal access to government-issued ID are often a bigger problem in black areas, prompting complaints of racial discrimination.
Advocates of the tough new rules accuse Democrats of overreacting.
They point to the record early turnout numbers in this year’s primaries, which were three times higher than in the 2018 midterm cycle, as an example. They say that shows the fuss over election rules is false.
Democrats and voting rights advocates counter that the large numbers are due to a change in tactics to mobilize voters due to the new rules.
“In fact what we see is that Georgians (are) going to the polls in historic numbers, despite their antics and their attempts to make it difficult to vote,” Nse Ufot, executive director of the New Georgia Project (NGP), told AFP. ).
“That is much more a merit of the organization that is being done,” he added.
Voter turnout groups like the NGP helped Biden become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win from Georgia in nearly three decades.
The victory of two Democrats in the second round of the January 2021 elections also gave control of the US Senate to the Democrats. One of them, Raphael Warnock, is running again in November and his defeat could return the House majority to the Republicans.
Biden won Georgia by just 11,779 votes out of nearly 5 million cast, meaning a slight drop in turnout could reverse the result.
Those restrictive laws are “a kind of slow death” for democracy, Jada Richard, a 23-year-old activist with the New Georgia Project, told AFP.
“If they manage to get 12,000 people or 5,000 people not to vote or feel that it is difficult for them, that is enough to decide the elections,” he added.
Georgia civil rights leader Jamal Bryant says the state is “somewhere between Jim Crow Dixie and apartheid South Africa.”
“The ‘slow death’ thing is too passive. I would say it’s murder by shooting,” Bryant, senior pastor of a Baptist church, told AFP.
Voting rights groups see increasing turnout as the best weapon to ensure that the November elections reflect the will of all Georgians.
© 2022 AFP