Public Testimony from John Eaves for the Senate Rules Committee Hearing on Voting Rights
After the July 19 Senate Rules Committee's hearing on Voting Rights, I offered the following testimony to be included into the public record of the committee's work.
July 23, 2021
Senator Amy Klobuchar
Chair, Senate Rules Committee
Washington, DC. 20510
Dear Chairwoman Klobuchar:
I attended the Senate Rules Committee hearing you chaired with fellow committee members Senators Jon Ossoff, Jeff Merkley, and Alex Padilla at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta on Monday, July 19, 2021. The Committee heard testimony from three (3) Georgians: GA. State Senator Sally Harrell, Helen Butler, Executive Director, Coalition for the Peoples Agenda, and Jose Segarra, an engineer at Robbins Air Force Base.
After the hearing, you invited the public to have their testimony included in the public record of your essential committee work. I wish to offer this letter, with details below, into the public record:
As you know, Republican legislatures across the nation have enacted restrictive voting laws predicated on the “Big Lie” the 2020 Presidential Election was somehow stolen. Justice Samuel Alito himself acknowledged that legislators “were motivated in part by partisan interests.” The right to vote is a sacred part of our great democracy; however, when our democracy becomes tainted by polarization and bitterness, we are left with a divisive nation that fails to recognize the voices of its voters.
We must recognize the deeper issue at hand is not the ideological discord between Democratic and Republican politicians but the demographics of the voting electorate. It is no secret that the Democratic Party primarily includes marginalized populations, including African Americans and other people of color, suburban white women, Jews, and the LGBTQ+ community. As we transition into a society in which the partisan and racial lines become increasingly blurred, how could we not view discriminatory voting laws as an attack on our nation’s minorities?
In Georgia, a large concentration of the Democratic vote comes from Fulton County, a county that has played a pivotal and controversial role in the state’s partisan shift. Fulton County has approximately 820,747 registered voters, with 41.9% of voters identifying as Black. These voters were the key to Joe Biden’s successful presidential bid. As the polls closed and data rolled in, it became evident that Black voters in Fulton County and across the state showed up and showed out in the 2020 elections. Rather than acknowledging Biden’s victory was attributed to the growing diversity in Georgia, Republican lawmakers rallied behind Donald Trump and his baseless and volatile accusations of a fraudulent election. HB 531 and SB 202, which contain similar provisions to Arizona’s new voter laws, were enacted in direct response to Democratic victories in Georgia and the growing voting power of Black voters. The attacks on Sunday voting, which was popularized by “Souls to the Polls” initiatives, and early and no-excuse absentee ballots, a method of voting widely used among Democrats and people of color during the COVID-19 pandemic, clearly demonstrate attempts to silence and restrict voters of color. Black voters are becoming a threat to the political status quo, and Republican politicians are afraid not of what it would mean for the governance of our state but rather what it means for the decades of political domination of white politicians in Georgia.
As a professor at Spelman College, I make a point of emphasizing to my students the importance of engaging in the political process and being fearless advocates for change. We have a dynamic generation witnessing what may potentially be a revival of the Civil Rights Movement who are eager to have their voices heard. Amid these renewed attacks on the voting rights of black people and other people of color, our communities are coming together to protect our democracy. Georgia saw a record-breaking voter turnout, with over 3 million absentee and in-person ballots cast and over 600,000 eligible citizens registered to vote since the 2018 Midterm Elections. The efforts of citizens and organizations across the state offered innovative voter registration and mobilization methods and contributed to the growing diversity of Georgia’s voting population. Democratic lawmakers from Texas traveled to our nation’s capital to boycott a vote on a restrictive voting bill Republican legislators are trying to pass in Texas and advocate for the “For the People and John Lewis Voting Rights Act.” I fully support Congress and the Biden Administration’s efforts to preserve what the late Congressman John Lewis called “the most powerful non-violent tool we have to create a more perfect union.” It is time that we, as proud citizens of Georgia, work to maintain what makes our democracy thrive and celebrate the rich and diverse backgrounds and voices of our great state and nation.
John H. Eaves, PhD
Cc: Senate Rules Committee Members
Senator Raphael Warnock, US. Senator of Georgia