Georgia Republican Worried Officials Making It Easier For Local Black People to Vote

Georgia Republican Worried Officials Making It Easier For Local Black People to Vote

If Georgia state Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) has his way, the right to vote would reserves solely for the "educated" — code for white — voter.

Millar raised eyebrows this week after publicly lashing out about early voting in DeKalb County that would make it easier for some minority voters to exercise their civic duty. The plan, which would include opening an early voting location in a mall frequented by African-American shoppers, angered Millar because it would attract "less educated voters." Clearly, for Millar, those two are mutually exclusive. More frighteningly for Millar, however, is the fact that those "African-American shoppers" overwhelmingly vote Democrat.

In a statement posted to his Facebook, Millar laments this increased ability and access, worrying that churches in the area may help with get-out-the-vote efforts, implying that such a move would violate the "accepted principle of separation of church."

Millar has vowed to repeal the early voting plan when the state Senate comes to term in the new year. He might succeed, too. The Supreme Court overturned Section 4 (nullifying Section 5) of the Voting Rights Act last year that has the potential to affect nine states, including Georgia. 

The Rev. Raphael G. Warnock,  of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, issued a response to Millar's statement, challenging what he claims is the blatant racism underpining Millar's supposed concern about the separation of church and state:

Why is State Senator Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, an elected official so angry and perturbed by the prospect of more American citizens participating in the electoral process?

As the May primary showed once again, our democracy does not suffer from too much voter participation but just the opposite. Sunday voting, as a logical extension of early voting, offers a common-sense correction to low voter turnout by affording ordinary families who cannot so easily get to the polls during their work-a-day lives, another opportunity to exercise that basic and sacred American right — the right to vote.

Refuting Millar's assertion that early voting is either a partisan or racial issue, Warnock noted that the state senator's statement "is a clear and unabashed echo from our ugly and painful racial past. How does he propose to determine who is more educated? Literacy tests? Grandfather clauses? Poll taxes? We have been there before."

Restricted voting access, from implementing voter ID laws to curtailing early voting in the South, and notably in Georgia, is nothing new. As detailed in a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Massachusetts Boston, "Jim Crow 2.0? Why States Consider and Adopt Restrictive Voter Access Policies," these measures have the objective of specifically disenfranchising African-American, as well as other, minority voters. Millar's statement only serves to reinforce this conclusion.