In the wake of historic voter turnout in the 2020 elections, state legislatures around the country are engaging in unprecedented efforts to restrict voting rights and make it harder for Americans to vote. Under the guise of renewed lies about voter fraud, GOP actions threaten to gut our democracy along the familiar lines of voter suppression and systemic racism. Recent legislation in Georgia is only the thin edge of this threat to our fundamental right to vote.
On March 25, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed SB202 into law after the Republican-led state legislature passed the measure. This bill is unapologetically intended to disenfranchise Black, Latinx, and new voters. These are the same communities that mobilized mass numbers of voters, contributing directly to the elections of both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and Georgia Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
Instead of celebrating this groundswell of organizing and democratic participation, Georgia lawmakers have doubled down to consolidate their power and undermine the will of the people. When State Representative Park Cannon, a Black queer woman, knocked on the Governor’s door to witness the signing of SB202 in a closed-door meeting of white male lawmakers, police arrested and forcibly removed her from the Capitol.
Pro-democracy advocates are hailing SB202 as the worst voter suppression measure since Jim Crow. The bill restricts early and absentee voting, imposes stringent voter ID requirements, and makes it a crime to provide food and water to voters waiting in long lines on election day. It allows this same group of lawmakers to usurp the authority of local election boards. In a democracy the people choose their leaders, but in Georgia and 42 other states, the legislature is trying to choose its voters. To be clear, the voters they are choosing to exclude are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, immigrant, poor, new and young voters.
Voter suppression has always been a tool of white supremacy in this country. And, in this political moment, these kinds of attacks on Black communities and communities of color—that organized and mobilized in historic ways during the last election cycle—are only going to increase as national GOP plans move forward. Disturbingly, SB202 is likely to be a test case for similar anti-democratic voter suppression bills across the country in the coming months. The Brennan Center for Justice reports that “As of February 19, 2021, state lawmakers have carried over, prefiled, or introduced 253 bills with provisions that restrict voting access in 43 states[.]”
As Unitarian Universalists, our values hold that all people should have a voice and a vote in choosing their leaders and determining what is best for ourselves and our communities. Our principles compel us to protect the broadest use of the democratic process and remind us that the oppression of any community is a moral injury to us all. As we witness the intentional undermining of the electoral process, our faith beckons us to resist these attacks on democracy and protect voting rights everywhere.
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) offers our support and solidarity to the powerful organizing happening in Georgia, especially from faith communities and Black-led organizations such as New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter, and Fair Fight. We applaud leaders like Representative Cannon who have engaged in direct action and shown up with moral courage to condemn state repression. We encourage Unitarian Universalists across the country to organize to defeat voter suppression in their own states. We urge support for the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. These are crucial national measures to ensure that restrictive state bills like SB202 do not threaten the rights of the most marginalized communities.
As 19th c. Unitarian minister Theodore Parker once said, “A democracy [is] a government of all the people, for all the people, by all the people.” Access to the ballot and fair, transparent elections systems are fundamental to this vision. The UUA is proud of our Unitarian Universalist legacy of fighting for democracy and voting rights. We urge Unitarian Universalists to work in partnership with all those who share our values to take decisive action in support of a free, fair, and functioning democracy.
Take Action Today
- Work to pass national voting rights legislation. Join Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice in urging your Senators to take action in passing S1, the For the People Act, and identify your U.S. House Representative and ask them to vote YES on HR 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
- Organize for voting rights in your state. Know what voting-related measures are on your state’s legislative agenda this year, and work with your UU State Action Network to organize UUs in your state in support of a pro-democracy agenda.
- Join other UUs to learn and organize for democracy together. Follow Side With Love on Facebook and Twitter as we connect UUs with opportunities for education and action in support of democracy. Join our UU the Vote Facebook community to connect with others working to combat voter suppression and ensure all people have a voice and a vote.