voice for democracy

ZACHARY: Eroding election erode democracy – Valdosta Daily Times

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Updated: October 30, 2021 @ 8:23 am
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DomeLight by Jim Zachary 

DomeLight by Jim Zachary 
Registering to vote should be easy. 
Voting should be easy. 
Qualifying to run for elected office should be easy. 
Running for office as a write-in candidate should be easy. 
Democracy works best when a lot of people register, a lot of people run for office and a lot of people vote.
Low voter turnout is an affront to democracy. 
Uncontested elections are essentially undemocratic, by definition. 
In Georgia, however, lawmakers have made it more difficult to register to vote and more inconvenient to cast ballots, while state elections laws are so dense you pretty much need to be a Philadelphia lawyer to navigate through the process of qualifying to run for office, and that is especially true for anyone wanting to mount a write-in campaign. It can also be legitimately argued that systems in place since the original Jim Crow era disproportionately disadvantage people of color. 
As if legacy processes are not arduous enough, now Georgia lawmakers have taken another step backward and no longer allow would-be voters to request an absentee ballot on the Secretary of State’s secure web portal. Now, voters have to jump through more hoops, by downloading the ballot, printing it out, signing it in ink, scanning it and then submitting. To be clear, this is not the process for voting. It is what a person must go through just to request an absentee ballot. 
Think about all the things we do securely online? We pay our bills, deposit checks into our bank accounts and share private medical history with our doctor’s office. We can sign home mortgage documents, purchase vehicles and monitor our Social Security benefits. But, we cannot even request a ballot? 
How will all of this negatively impact Georgia seniors, people with disabilities and people who don’t have a scanner or printer? 
Georgia was taking some baby steps toward making it easier to vote absentee until a Democrat won the state’s tally for president and two Democrats won Senate seats and then all of a sudden there was a rush to change voting laws. Why? Why then? 
Other changes included restricting and reducing drop boxes to only being inside early voting locations and making it a criminal act to give out water and snacks to voters waiting in lines at polling places.
Perhaps most disturbing is a provision that gives the state the authority to take over local election boards. 
So, we can’t trust local elections workers, volunteers and people we know, but we are supposed to trust state government — that willy nilly changes the rules of the game in the middle of game — to safeguard our elections? 
 
Jim Zachary is the editor of The Valdosta Daily Times, CNHI’s director of newsroom training and development and president emeritus of Georgia First Amendment Foundation. 

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First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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