MARIETTA — About 75 people gathered in the parking lot of the Cobb Civic Center on Sunday afternoon to rally against SB 202, the sweeping voting law that Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law last month.
A host of voting rights activists and Democratic politicians spoke, railing against the law, which they say is “Jim Crow 2.0” and adds unnecessary barriers to voting. Kemp has defended the law, saying it makes it “easy to vote and hard to cheat” and pointing to sections that expand weekend early voting.
Chinita Allen, president of Cobb Democratic Women, opened the rally, ticking through restrictions the law enacts — limiting the number of ballot drop boxes, limiting drop box hours, adding an ID requirement for absentee ballots and preventing election officials from mailing out absentee applications to all voters.
“This law is not in response to voter fraud. It’s in response to voter turnout,” said Jacquelyn Bettadapur, chair of the Cobb County Democratic Committee. “Good legislation addresses problems, it fixes problems, and the only problem we have here is that too many people turned out to vote.”
The premier guest was U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, a Democrat whose 6th District includes parts of Marietta and east Cobb. McBath called the law a “power grab” in which Republicans are “trying to change the rules.” She invoked the legacy John Lewis, the civil rights legend and Atlanta congressman who died last year.
“My good friend and deceased friend and colleague, Rep. John Lewis said, ‘It is always time to do what’s right,’” McBath said.
The congresswoman also warned about the upcoming redistricting process, saying Republicans will use it to gerrymander and hold onto power in the state. Congressional and state legislature district maps are redrawn every 10 years by the state legislature. Georgia Republicans may target McBath herself, or fellow Democrat Carolyn Bordeaux, who both flipped Republican suburban districts blue over the past three years.
State Rep. Teri Anulewicz, D-Smyrna, said the law “limits democracy to those for whom it is easy.” State Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, said it all started when Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani testified before state legislators and “(tried) to peddle conspiracy theories that were not true.”
“So, we have to remember the ‘why,’” Jordan said. “The ‘why’ is a lie.”
The event also served as a preview of the 2022 election cycle, in which both parties can be expected to use the SB 202 fight to rally their bases. Several of the politicians who were present mentioned their bids for higher office — Rep. Erick Allen, D-Smyrna, and Derrick Jackson, D-Tyrone (both lieutenant governor), Jen Jordan (attorney general), Rep. Matthew Wilson, D-Brookhaven (insurance and fire safety commissioner) and Rep. William Boddie, D-East Point (labor commissioner).
Barring a Democratic takeover of state government next election, SB 202 seems here to stay, but the speakers said there were other ways to fight the law.
State Sen. Michael “Doc” Rhett, D-Marietta, asked the crowd Sunday to check on the elderly and assist them if they need to register to vote, obtain a state ID or apply for an absentee ballot. State Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Powder Springs, asked people to contact the Cobb County Board of Commissioners — now controlled by Democrats — to see how they could expand voting access through the county elections office. And Jeriene Grimes, president of the Cobb NAACP, asked people to support the passage of federal voting rights legislation in Washington.
A lone counter-protester, Jim Tully of Paulding County, carried an American flag and paced the sidewalk adjacent to South Marietta Parkway during the rally. He said in an interview that SB 202 was “wonderful,” making elections secure and fair.
“These are lies and untruths being told by the very people that they are laying their trust in,” Tully said. “The Democratic Party is lying to these people. I don’t know why they can’t investigate and educate themselves on what’s really going on.”