Lawmaker Arrested After Georgia GOP Passes Controversial Elections Bill

March 26, 2021 by Dan McCue
Ann White of Roswell holds protest signs on the North Wing stairs of the Georgia State Capitol building on day 38 of the legislative session in Atlanta, Thursday, March 25, 2021. "It ain't over yet," said White. "I look forward to going door-to-door working against everybody that voted for (SB 202)." The Georgia state House has passed legislation brought by Republicans that could lead to a sweeping overhaul of state election law. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

A Georgia lawmaker was arrested and forcibly removed from the state Capitol Thursday night as Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed a sweeping overhaul of state election laws, including adding new restrictions on voting by mail.

Georgia State Rep. Park Cannon, a Democrat, was arrested as she attempted to knock on the door of the governor’s office. A video of the event quickly went viral on Twitter.

Shortly after midnight, Cannon tweeted to inform her supporters that she had been released from jail after posting bond. 

“I am not the first Georgian to be arrested for fighting voter suppression. I’d love to say I’m the last, but we know that isn’t true,” Cannon said

“But someday soon that last person will step out of jail for the last time and breathe a first breath knowing that no one will be jailed again for fighting for the right to vote,” she added.

The arrest capped a day of raw emotions at the State House after the Repubilcan-controlled legislature passed legislation that Democrats and voting rights advocates said would disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color.

With Kemp signing the bill into law just hours later, Georgia once again became ground zero for the national debate over voting rights.

Speaking at the White House on Friday, President Joe Biden called the new law, “like so many others being pursued by Republicans in statehouses across the country … a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience.

“Instead of celebrating the rights of all Georgians to vote or winning campaigns on the merits of their ideas, Republicans in the state instead rushed through an un-American law to deny people the right to vote,” Biden said.

“Among the outrageous parts of this new state law, it ends voting hours early so working people can’t cast their vote after their shift is over. It adds rigid restrictions on casting absentee ballots that will effectively deny the right to vote to countless voters. And it makes it a crime to provide water to voters while they wait in line – lines Republican officials themselves have created by reducing the number of polling sites across the state, disproportionately in Black neighborhoods,” the president continued.

“This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end,” he said. “We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act. I once again urge Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to make it easier for all eligible Americans access the ballot box and prevent attacks on the sacred right to vote.”

Republican efforts to change voting laws in Georgia come after record-breaking turnout led to Democratic victories in the presidential election and two U.S. Senate runoffs in the once reliably red state.

More than 1.3 million Georgia voters opted to vote by mail last year, most driven by the fear of catching the coronavirus.

The new law in the state requires a photo ID in order to vote absentee by mail. It also reduces the amount of time people have to request an absentee ballot before an election and limits where ballot drop boxes will be placed.

But one of the biggest changes in the new law is that it gives the GOP-controlled legislature more control over election administration, a change that has raised concerns among voting rights groups that it could lead to greater partisan influence.

The bill would replace the elected secretary of state as the chair of the state election board with a new appointee of the legislature.

It would also allow the board to remove and replace county election officials deemed to be underperforming.

That provision is widely seen as something that could be used to target Fulton County, a Democratic stronghold that includes most of Atlanta, which came under fire after long lines plagued primary elections over the summer.

“Georgians turned out in record-breaking numbers because they could access the ballot,” Democratic Rep. Rhonda Burnough said on the Georgia House floor shortly before the bill passed in a 100-75 party-line vote. “Lies upon lies were told about our elections in response, and now this bill is before us built on those same lies.”

But Republicans in the chamber were unmoved.

One of them, Rep. Jan Jones, argued the new requirements would “increase the likelihood of a voter’s vote being cast successfully.” 

While the debate over the bill dragged on, about 50 protesters including representatives from the NAACP gathered across the street from the Capitol building in opposition to the changes.

After Cannon’s arrest, Sen. Reverend Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., visited her in the Fulton County jail.

Afterward he said, “What we have witnessed today is a desperate attempt to lock out and squeeze the people out of their own democracy.” 

Warnock, who was elected to the Senate in January, added, “We are going to take this fight to give the people their voices back.”

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