Democratic Georgia state legislator Park Cannon was arrested Thursday (March 25) as she knocked on Gov. Brian Kemp’s door while he live streamed signing the state’s new election bill into law, which infuriated activists and voting rights advocates that had fought for years to make voting easier there.
The state fell into political chaos on Thursday as Kemp signed Senate Bill 202, which was passed by Republican legislators and has been criticized as an attempt to heavily limit voting rights and stifle voter freedoms. The legislation requires identification for absentee ballots, places limits on drop boxes, augments early voting hours, and disqualifies provisional ballots mistakenly cast in the wrong precinct and even makes it illegal to hand out bottled water to people waiting in line to vote. The bill’s detractors have called it “Jim Crow 2.0.”
State troopers handcuffed and forcibly removed Cannon from the Capitol building in Atlanta and placed her in a police car as other protestors watched and shouted at them. She was charged with obstruction of law enforcement and disruption of General Assembly sessions, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. She was released on bond late Thursday.
U.S. Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock visited Cannon while she was in custody and spoke to reporters about the signing of the bill and its ramifications.
“What we have witnessed today is a desperate attempt to lockout and squeeze the people out of their own democracy,” said Warnock. “In this case, they’re literally being locked down…but this effort to silence the voices of Georgians who stood up in a historic election in November and January will not stand.”
Stacey Abrams, the voting rights advocate and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate who could possibly go for a rematch against Kemp in 2022, last week called the legislation racist and a “redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie” during an appearance on CNN. She has spent the years after her 2018 defeat pushing to strengthen voting rights and that effort culminated in Georgia’s electoral college votes going toward President Biden and electing Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff to the Senate in January.
Critics say the bill is in response to Georgia turning into a blue state after spending years as a Republican stronghold and an attempt to target Abrams herself. But Kemp maintained that the state’s voting system had several problems that needed to be reformed and the bill goes toward that.
“There’s no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled, and those problems, understandably, led to a crisis of confidence in the ballot box here in Georgia,” Kemp said in a press conference after he signed the bill.
But activists throughout Georgia are vowing to use every legal provision at their disposal to push back against the legislation. Georgia NAACP president James Woodall blasted the new law and said he is determined that the efforts of Republican legislators will not stand.
“From the inefficient and burdensome use of identification requirements on absentee ballots and applications, to a so-called “voter fraud” hotline that will lead to intimidation,” said Woodall. “The criminalization of NAACP volunteers who want to give food and water to voters waiting in long lines, and —last but certainly not least— to allowing local Boards of Elections to be taken over by GOP legislators, this dangerous legislation does nothing to improve voter confidence in the election process nor ensures election integrity.”