March 15, 2021, was the 14th straight day that different groups, religious leaders, students, and advocates have stood outside the Georgia State Capitol to protest SB 241 and its companion bill HB 531. Two of the worst voter suppression bills in the nation based on far-right conspiracy theories and Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that he lost the election due to fraud but provided zero evidence of voter fraud.
This Monday the group at the center of attention is the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) in Georgia. “The PPC, a national call for moral revival, that unites people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation, and the nation’s distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism,” Neil Tellier, co-chair of the Georgia PPC, said.
Leslie Withers, who is on the coordinating committee for PPC in Georgia, called, “Voting rights a moral issue with SB 241 one of the most restrictive voting proposals ever made in the United States.”
If SB 241 becomes law it would repeal no-excuse vote by mail, add new ID requirements, add millions in taxes to cover unfunded mandates to county governments, create a new so-called “voter fraud” tip line to report voters suspected of fraud.
HB 531 will restrict dropbox access, restrict weekend voting, and criminalize volunteers for handing out food and water to voters waiting in long lines.
“What we are seeing is a complete assault on the right to vote and on democracy. Voting is not just about casting your ballot, it’s about being able to decide how public policy works for our community. How our healthcare system is able to afford to take care of our citizens, to be able to ensure we live in a world with clean energy, to ensure that infrastructure, jobs, roads, schools, jails, are more equitable. When we vote at the polls, lobby at the state capitol, we are fighting for a more just Georgia, a more moral society and that is what Moral Monday is all about,” Rev. James Woodall, State President, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) , said at the ongoing voter suppression protest across from the state capitol on Moral Monday Day.
Another speaker Dr. Rev. Jail Wright said, “Today we call into account the corporate structures of this state to stand in alignment and agreement with us. We don’t want Delta to be the airline with big jets and a small moral compass, and small accountability. Delta can lead the way.”
A coalition including The New Georgia Project, NAACP, and Black Voters Matter has named six of the biggest Georgia companies Aflac, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, Home Depot, Southern Company, and UPS who have contributed to legislators of these voter suppression bills.
An investigation by Popular Information found that these six corporations gave a combined $190,800 to co-sponsors of HB 531 and SB 241 since 2018. Other companies gave even more money with AT&T giving $99,700 to co-sponsors.
“It is time to speak truth to power to every politician who wants to take us back to 1950 or to 1850. It is 2021 and a new Georgia is dawning, a Georgia that is more inclusive, more female, more brown and black, and loves a little differently, a Georgia that supports the voice of workers,” Attorney Gerald Griggs, Freedom Fighter with the NAACP, said and promised, “We are going to hold every elected official that votes to disenfranchise millions of Georgians accountable both today and in November.”
At the end of the rally, the group walked over to the Governor’s office to deliver 14 legislative demands on behalf of the 140 million poor and low-income people in the nation and the 4.6 million poor and low-income people in Georgia. The PPC’s 14 Policy Priorities to heal our nation are also being delivered to every state house, all governors, all elected officials, and members of Congress to demand that every citizen be allowed fair access to voting.
The 14 Policy Priorities are:
1. Enact comprehensive, free, and just COVID-19 relief.
2. Guarantee quality healthcare of all, regardless of any pre-existing conditions.
3. Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour immediately.
4. Update the poverty measure.
5. Guarantee quality housing for all.
6.Enact a federal jobs program to build up investments, infrastructure, public institutions, climate resilience, energy efficiency, and socially beneficial industries and jobs in poor and low-income communities.
7. Protect and expand voting rights and civil rights.
8. Guarantee safe, quality, and equitable public education, with support for protection against re-segregation.
9. Comprehensive and just immigration reform.
10. Ensure all of the rights of indigenous peoples.
11. Enact fair taxes.
12. Use the power of executive orders.
13. Redirect the bloated Pentagon budget towards these priorities as matters of national security.
14. Work with the Poor People’s Campaign to establish a permanent Presidential Council to advocate for this bold agenda.
To learn more about the 14 policy priorities click here.
The old paradigm of money for endless wars, tax breaks for the ultra-rich along with subsidies for wealthy corporations have resulted in more poverty and growing inequality between the multi-millionaire class and the poor and working class.
But changing demographics in the United States demands a change in policies and priorities that focus on working class people and this frightens the status quo. This is why Republicans – who are mostly white and without any significant diversity – are running scared and passing voter suppression bills. These bills will make it more difficult for minorities, the elderly, disabled, previously incarcerated people, and people without access to transportation or advanced technology to vote.
“Just because something is legal does not mean it is moral,” Martin Luther King once said. What Georgia legislators are attempting to do is immoral but legal,” Rev. Wright said.
Hopefully, the courts may decide that Georgia’s voter suppression bills are illegal.
The Poor People’s Campaign states that every year, we lose $1 trillion to child poverty costs and $2.6 trillion in lost earnings from gender and racial wage gaps. We have lost $1.3 trillion in government revenue by lowering the corporate tax rate in 2017 and $6.4 trillion in endless wars. Inaction on climate change may cost close to $3.3 trillion annually, and 250,000 people die from poverty and inequality every year. The cumulative financial costs of the pandemic alone are estimated to be $16 trillion.
These costs are threats to genuine democracy in this country. The health, healing, and well-being of the nation depend on addressing policy-based systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the denial of healthcare, and a bloated Pentagon budget.
When left unaddressed, these narratives divide and pit us against each other and give rise to a modern form of economic tyranny for the 140 million people who are poor in the wealthiest country in human history.
We Can Do Better – Another World is Possible!
By Gloria Tatum