Criminalizing Generosity

José López Zamorano | La Red Hispana 
Photo Credit: La Red Hispana

What would you think of a law that established a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $ 1,000 fine for offering food or water to another human being?

Believe it or not, it is one of the most controversial provisions of the new Georgia state law, steam approved by the Republican legislature of that state, as part of a series of initiatives sponsored under the false premise that massive voter fraud was recorded in the November 2020 presidential election, where Donald Trump lost.

President Joe Biden is absolutely right when he assures us that it is “anti-American” legislation. Denying a glass of water or a snack to an elderly person who has stood in line to vote for more than six hours does not correspond to the moral values ​​of the United States, or of any other country.

However, it is not an isolated case. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, there are currently a total of 55 initiatives aimed at restricting and limiting voting in 24 states across the country. Rightly, many activists agree that this is a deliberate effort to affect the vote of poor minorities, especially Latinos and African Americans.

In Texas, for example, Senate Bill No. 7 seeks to limit the early voting period, prohibits the method of voting by car, which has become popular during the pandemic in order to maintain physical distance from other people, limits the number of vote deposit sites and, to top it off, it criminalizes automatically sending vote-by-mail requests.

All of these provisions have a clear target audience: minority voters. Both Latinos and African Americans are more likely to vote in person and stand in line than non-Hispanic white voters. With the new additional restrictions proposed to limit the number of votes by mail, voting hours or deposit boxes, it is logical to expect more people to line up or simply stop voting.

Is it a coincidence that the majority of minority voters, especially Latinos and African Americans, vote for the Democrats?

But it is not all bad news. The tsunami of vote suppression initiatives has sparked pushback from some of America’s leading private corporations. The Major League Baseball (MLB) decided to cancel the All-Star Game in Atlanta and move it to the state of Colorado.

Other Georgia-based companies such as Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines have expressed their rejection of the new regulations in their state. And a handful of senior African-American executives are leading an effort to add more voices against anti-voting initiatives.

It is foreseeable that these controversial proposals will reach the Supreme Court of the United States.

But in any case, the incident confirms that democracy is too important to be left only to politicians. And that permanent vigilance and the participation of ALL of society are absolutely necessary to guarantee equal and fair civic participation.

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