Last week, Florida Governor DeSantis signed an extreme anti-voter bill into law that limits the use of drop boxes and places additional barriers on those requesting absentee ballots, making it more difficult for Floridians to vote. The bill is yet another all-out assault on our democracy.
Florida has, sadly, taken a page from lawmakers in Georgia. Instead of building on last year’s historic turnout, some Georgia lawmakers are engaged in efforts to suppress Georgians’ ability to vote in the future.
These legislators passed and Governor Kemp signed SB 202, erecting new barriers to make voting harder for Georgians. One of the many reasons this law is so harmful is that it makes the work of civic-engagement organizations like ours, the Voter Participation Center (VPC) and the Center for Voter Information (CVI), virtually impossible.
We will not stand idly by as some lawmakers attack our democratic process and threaten the ability to vote—whether in Florida, Texas, Georgia, or places in between. That’s why we’ve filed a lawsuit against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for several of the harmful provisions in that state’s law.
One such provision of SB 202 fines third-party organizations from sending vote-by-mail applications to anyone who has recently signed up to vote by mail. While there is a five-day grace period, the scale of operations and slowdowns at the USPS make it impossible to remove individuals who have just requested an absentee ballot.
The law also creates an unsustainable cost burden. Currently, it costs us 39 cents to produce each mailer and communicate with potential voters, but SB 202 puts in place a potential $100 penalty for any duplicate mailers. This fee would represent a 25,000 percent cost increase per mailer, and when mailing to millions of eligible Georgia voters, this becomes unbearable.
The new law also places stress on local election officials, who would now be responsible for providing a current list of vote-by-mail applicants to third parties, without giving these public servants additional resources.
These efforts to derail vote-by-mail programs are a slippery slope. Already Georgia’s legislation is serving as a model for Florida and other states for more restrictions.
Our work focuses on the New American Majority—people of color, young people, and unmarried women—and their ability to make their voices heard across the country. The new Florida and Georgia laws are clearly targeted at making it harder for these voters to remain engaged.
The future of our work in Georgia depends on overturning this law. If the law stands, we will likely have to stop the work we’ve been doing to expand vote-by-mail access across the state of Georgia. And that would truly be detrimental, since VPC and CVI helped over 600,000 Georgia residents vote by mail during the general election and the Senate runoffs.
During the pandemic, we’ve seen just how vital vote-by-mail is to those communities who can’t easily make it to the polls in person. Not only was it safer to vote by mail during Covid-19, but expanding mail-in voting increases voter turnout and allows more individuals to fully participate in the electoral process.
We must never forget that America is a democracy, and voting is core to who we are. In our democracy, elections should be a contest of ideas and not a contest about who gets to vote. Through our lawsuit and our work to register and engage voters, we will work to ensure every American can make their voice heard.