Opponents of Georgia voting bill say it aims to crush ‘souls to the polls’

Civil rights groups are opposing a Georgia bill that would limit early voting on Sundays, saying the proposal is an attempt to suppress turnout from African-American churches.

They urged Georgia lawmakers Monday to stop Senate Bill 363, which would restrict weekend voting to one Saturday or Sunday before an election. The bill also calls for city of Atlanta elections to end an hour earlier, at 7 p.m. as in the rest of the state.

The Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor for Ebenezer Baptist Church, said leaders of the Republican-led Georgia General Assembly are trying to hinder "souls to the polls" events organized by congregations to vote on Sundays.

“This is an election year. We know what this is about,” Warnock said during a press conference against SB 363 on Monday. “It is about politicians choosing to select their voters rather than the voters being able to select their politicians.”

State legislators supporting of the bill have said it’s needed to ensure fairness in elections. They say county election officials shouldn’t be able to provide more early voting hours than are offered in other counties.

But Democrats and other critics of the bill argue that election opportunities should be expanded, not diminished.

"This is one more attempt to restrict access to Georgia citizens to the sacred right to vote," said Andrea Young, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. "Weekend voting hours are critical to our citizens who work hard and work long hours."

The bill, which is pending in the Georgia House, could receive final votes before this year’s legislative session ends Thursday.

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