FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 16, 2015
Contact: Elizabeth Poythress, League of Women Voters of GA, (404) 276-0454, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Jerry Gonzalez, GALEO, 404.745.2580, email@example.com.
HANDS OFF Early Voting! Georgians are tired of playing games with Election laws
(Atlanta, GA) On Wednesday, February 18th, Georgia citizens will stand strong and demand their representatives stop playing games with elections. A coalition of the League of Women Voters of Georgia (LWVGA), the Georgia National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia (ACLU), Common Cause Georgia, Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, Georgia Women’s Actions for New Directions (WAND), 9to5Atlanta, Georgia Equality/Equality Foundation of Georgia, and Georgia Rural Urban Summit will hold a rally at the Capitol on Wednesday, February 18th at 2:15 PM in Liberty Plaza telling the General Assembly to keep their HANDS OFF early voting.
“We are asking our representatives to be truthful about this bill. HB 194 will not bring about uniformity in Georgia’s elections, and it will not mandate Sunday voting, even though Sunday voting has proven to be extremely popular,” stated Elizabeth Poythress with the League of Women Voters of Georgia. “The truth is that this bill will restrict citizens voting opportunities and foster cries of voter suppression.”
“To eliminate seven days of early voting with a presidential election year approaching is unconscionable. Early voting allows local boards of elections to have the most experienced workers to conduct the process that makes it more efficient and error free. As a local board of elections member, we count on these early voting days for our citizens to exercise their right to vote,” stated Helen Butler, Executive Director of the Coalition for the People’s Agenda.
44% of all ballots cast in the last Presidential election were made early in person. In 2014, 927,925 Georgians voted early including 137,915 the first week. Rep. Mark Hamilton is the main sponsor of HB 194 and 59.4% of electors in his district early voted in person in 2012 and 43.6% in 2014. These percentages prove that Georgians value the opportunities available to meet their busy lifestyles.
“We have to take to the streets to have our voices heard, since the Governmental Affairs Committee denied public comments on this bill. This is the third time in four years certain politicians have targeted all citizens’ ability to vote for partisan bragging rights,” stated Kelli Persons, also with the League. “It’s hard not to see this as a coordinated effort to squash voter turnout for the 2016 election considering that eleven other states face similar legislation generated from one political party.”
“GALEO opposes any efforts to limit options for early voting. Early voting is popular with Georgians and many Latinos across the state. Given our busy lives, Georgians deserve more options to vote and not less.” stated Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director, Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.
The real purpose of HB 194 is to suppress early voting and to make Georgia a national joke. Secretary of State Kemp has recognized that early voting turnout grows with every election. As Georgia is rising to national prominence with the creation of an SEC primary, we cannot allow for our state to be embarrassed by a few lawmakers who are determined to create long voting lines for the 2016 Presidential election year by whittling away at early voting.
Co-Sponsor Rep. Barry Fleming stated to the committee that HB 194 “is not good enough in my opinion for small cities” after stating that “if they could have election day voting, they would be happy with that.” The same group of politicians introduced similar legislation during the 2014 legislative session which was defeated by grassroots advocates. The failure of these representatives to propose legislation that is in the best interest of their own constituents gives cause for every Georgian to ask if these same individuals will try to eliminate early voting altogether in upcoming legislative sessions.
The bi-partisan Elections Advisory Council (EAC), of which Rep. Hamilton is a member, made no recommendation to reduce early voting and acknowledged that forward-thinking reforms, such as the Any Precinct Act, would be of benefit to Georgia. The EAC was composed of legislators and elections officials and “looked for improvements that create cost savings and increase efficiencies for state, county and local governments.” As of today there are eight election bills that have not received a committee hearing, and given the past performance of the Governmental Affairs Committee, never will.
“As a nonpartisan group with active board and general members of both the Democratic and Republican parties, the consensus of our organization is the current timeframe for early voting is convenient and should not be changed” stated William Perry, Executive Director of Common Cause Georgia. “We’re for the uniformity and consistency the bill claims to provide, but this bill doesn’t give us the uniformity and consistency we currently have. It sure ain’t broke, so don’t claim to fix it while making it worse.”
“It’s clear that Georgia voters like early voting, and the legislature should do everything within its power to make voting as easy and accessible as possible,” said Marvin Lim, with the ACLU of Georgia. “In addition, no data was provided to support one of the bill’s ostensible purposes – cost reduction. The Secretary of State’s Elections Advisory Council – which sought to find ways to reduce the cost of elections – recommended no additional changes to this part of the system. We urge the legislators to follow the Council’s advice and oppose HB 194.”
“Our current system of early voting allows a certain measure of local control that many cities, including my own, rather enjoy,” continued Mayor Ted Terry of the City of Clarkston. “This bill takes away all local control to extend weekend voting hours. City elections are funded by the city and we reject the false choices of voting on one Sunday or two Saturdays. Why not allow voting on two Saturdays and two Sundays as we are able to now?”
“We stand here today to tell politicians HANDS OFF EARLY VOTING” noted Dr. Francys Johnson, president of the Georgia NAACP. “HB 194 is clearly targeting those early voting benefits including seniors, students, working mothers, and especially people of color. In this fight, the NAACP will mortgage every asset to defend unfettered access to the ballot. It is sacred!”
All Georgians are invited to join our diverse coalition on Wednesday, February 18th, at 2:15PM in Liberty Plaza to tell their Representative to keep their HANDS OFF Early Voting and oppose HB 194.