On March 25th, Georgia passed a collection of new voting laws which are a grave and concerning step backwards for our country. This legislation increased identification requirements for absentee voting, limited the number of drop boxes available for early voters, restricted provisional ballots, and made it a crime to hand out food or water to those waiting in line to vote. The legislation was premised on a lie: that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 Presidential election and that, therefore, legislation was required to make it “harder to cheat.”
These provisions restrict access to voting for all Georgians, and in particular, limit the rights of voters in Georgia who have the least mobility, privilege, and access. The result is that these provisions make it harder for Black voters in Georgia to exercise their Constitutional right. Context matters. And in this case, it’s hard not to interpret this legislation as a reaction to—and retribution for—the state’s election results. This is codified injustice, and it exists in direct contradiction to the values upon which our country was founded.
Voting is not a partisan issue. It’s a constitutional right and a cornerstone of our democracy. To suppress voting is to deny justice.
Just a few months ago in the 2020 election, Year Up staff, students, and alumni worked hard to register people to vote, mobilize communities, and, yes, hand out food and water to those who were waiting for hours to vote. It was incredibly humbling and inspiring to see the power of a community coming together in service of democracy and increased civic engagement.
I’ve had the privilege to know the late Congressman John Lewis and hear him speak about how he laid his life on the line in 1965 as he walked across Edmund Pettus Bridge in pursuit of justice and the right to vote.
To stand up and express our outrage at laws that restrict voting access not only honors the memory of those who fought to increase voting rights, but also honors the futures of all young adults—in Georgia and beyond. We cannot allow this country to move backwards, to restrict opportunity rather than broaden it.
We stand with our colleagues in corporate America who have called on business leaders to stand for racial justice and speak up against this legislation. We are hopeful that our colleagues in the nonprofit community will join us in opposing not only this legislation, but all legislation that seeks to restrict the rights of voters. We must do all that we can to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in the democratic process, and use that right in the pursuit of social, economic, and racial justice.