by Andrew Trunsky
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee sparred with Stacey Abrams Tuesday during a hearing on Democrats’ voting rights bill and election reforms that Republicans have introduced in states across the country.
The hearing consisted of testimony from officials on opposite sides of the issue, including Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, Utah Republican Rep. Burgess Owens and Jan Jones, the Republican speaker pro tempore of the Georgia House, but most questions from lawmakers on both sides were directed towards Abrams. Democrats largely focused on GOP-led policies that they likened to those from the Jim Crow era, while Republicans blasted the comparison and said that the bills’ goals were to make it harder to cheat, not to vote.
Most of the hearing centered around Georgia’s new voting law, SB 202, which Abrams said helped spark “a resurgence of the Jim Crow-style voter suppression measures sweeping across state legislatures.” The law was inspired by “insecurity about in the 2020 election” and former President Donald Trump’s false claims of voter fraud, Abrams said.
Jones, however, pushed back on Abram’s claim, saying that the law made it “easier to vote and harder to cheat” while “ensuring voter accessibility, transparency and integrity.”
Other Republicans pressed Abrams on issues ranging from her own stance on voter ID requirements, her 2018 gubernatorial bid and Major League Baseball’s decision to move its All-Star Game from Atlanta to Colorado.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn asked Abrams whether she thought Georgia’s new law was racist, to which she said that she believed certain components were.
“Is the Georgia election law racist?” Cornyn asked.
“I believe there are components of it that are racist,” Abrams said, adding that she believed there were “deliberate attempts” to suppress nonwhite voters in response to Cornyn’s followup question. He also questioned whether she supported voter ID, to which she responded that she did in some forms.
“So voter ID is sometimes racist, sometimes not racist?” Cornyn asked.
“The intent always matters, sir, and that is the point of this conversation,” Ms. Abrams said back. “That is the point of the Jim Crow narrative. That Jim Crow did not simply look at the activities, it looked at the intent.”
Sen. Ted Cruz pressed her on whether she maintained that Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial election was stolen.
“As I’ve always said,” Abrams responded, “I acknowledged at the very beginning that Brian Kemp won under the rules in place. But I object to our rules that permitted thousands of Georgia voters to be denied their participation in this election… so I will continue to disagree with the system until it is fixed.”
“Do you regret your central role in causing Major League Baseball to withdraw the All-Star Game from Georgia?” Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton later asked Abrams.
“I certainly regret the decision that MLB made to remove their game from Cobb County, and the economic effect that it will have on Georgians,” Abrams responded.
Abrams also advocated for the For the People Act, Democrats’ voting rights bill which would federalize elections, outlaw partisan gerrymandering, legalize ballot harvesting and adopt expansions to voter registration, absentee voting and more. Republicans, however, unanimously oppose the bill, calling it a Democratic power grab and warning that it will create additional opportunities for fraud.
Bill Gardner, New Hampshire’s secretary of state who was called by Republicans to testify, said that Democrats’ bill could backfire and fail to achieve its stated goals.
“An unjustified federal intrusion into the election processes of the individual states will damage voter confidence, diminish the importance of Election Day, and ultimately result in lower voter turnout,” Gardner, an elected Democrat who has held his post since 1976, testified.
The Senate Rules Committee is expected to take up the For the People Act in May after it passed the House of Representatives in March. It would need 60 votes to pass the Senate, however, and with Republicans unanimously opposed it has little chance of becoming law.
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