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U.S. Senate Committee Holds Hearing In Atlanta On Georgia's Voting Law

ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) -- During its first field meeting in more than 20 years, the U.S. Senate Rules Committee met at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta to hear testimony against Georgia's new voting law.

Members of the committee said the center was a fitting place to have the meeting. They said Republicans and Georgia's voting law SB 202 are rolling civil rights back to the Jim Crow era. "The new Georgia law not only limits the number and availability of valid drop boxes and puts limits on the hours of early voting, it also strips power away from local election officials," said Senator and Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota). "They're trying to deny access to the ballot, set up hurdles that voters have to cross as if voting is a privilege and not a right," said Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia).

During the hearing, the committee reflected on Congressman John Lewis's legacy. "Congressman Lewis was proud of the process that our country has made, but he also urged vigilance," said Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Georgia). "The four most important words in a democracy are 'the people have spoken,'" said State Representative Billy Mitchell (D-District 88).

Several witness testified against Georgia's voting law. "There was virtually no chance to debate this bill in the Senate Committee or on the Senate floor," said State Senator Sally Harrell (D-District 40). "It is ironic that 56 years later, we are still fighting those same voter suppression laws," said Helen Butler, the executive director for the Georgia Coalition for the People's Agenda. "I, along with thousands of Georgians, had to wait for hours in order to cast my vote," recalls José Segarra, a Houston County voter.

Ossoff and other committee members spoke with the press after the hearing. "Three high-level Republican officials, Georgia's Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gabriel Sterling, who is the chief operations officer at the Secretary of State's office, have all affirmed that Georgia's election was conducted with success and integrity and security," said Ossoff. "Yet, our state legislature has persisted in advancing legislation designed to gain a partisan advantage by making it harder to vote by mail, by restricting access to early voting in runoff elections, by making it a crime punishable by up to a year in prison for a non-partisan volunteer to hand a bottle of water to a voter made to wait to vote in line for four hours. This speaks to the vital need for federal voting rights legislation."

Governor Brian Kemp responded to the testimony in a video posted on social media. "It's obvious Democrats still have not actually read SB 202, because if they had, they would know the new law expands access to early voting. Their false attacks and politicized lawsuits aren't about expanding voting rights at all. It's about raising money and grabbing more power," he said. Republicans have said the law ensures each county has drop boxes and that the voter ID requirement for absentee ballots makes the process more fair and secure. "Despite the boycotts, threats and political lawsuits, we will continue to stand up and fight for what is right," said Kemp. "Thanks to our bill, it is easier to vote and harder to cheat," he added. Democrats say otherwise. "I think more disturbing to me is they didn't have any witnesses here," Klobushar said, indicating the GOP was invited to provide witnesses to testify in favor of the voting law but didn't send anyone.

The Rules Committee is expected to have more hearings this summer.

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