The Jolt: Georgia Democrats, activists bring their voting rights fight to Washington

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia legislators and activists are in Washington this week to join the growing campaign to urge Congress to pass federal voting legislation.

One of your Insiders reported this morning that roughly a dozen Georgia lawmakers are among more than 100 legislators from about 20 states who have traveled to the nation’s capital as part of a “week of action.” They plan to encourage Congress to adopt measures that could blunt laws in conservative states like Georgia that restrict access to the ballot.

These legislators are here to join Democrats from the Texas House that traveled here in June to rob GOP leaders back home of the quorum they need to pass their own election restriction bill.

“We want to tell the Texas Democrats we support them and impress upon our members of Congress that it’s imperative we protect voting rights,” said Georgia state Rep. Carolyn Hugley, a Columbus Democrat who flew into D.C. on Monday. “We’re depending on Congress to stand in the gap for us.”

The lawmakers from Georgia will participate in a march and rally on Capitol Hill today before huddling with lawmakers. Their goal is to urge the US. Senate to keep working on a federal bill that will create national standards for early voting, campaign finance and voter registration.

They are also urging Congress to move forward with a bill named after U.S. Rep. John Lewis that would reinstate federal review of changes to election laws at the state level.

These lawmakers aren’t the only Georgia presence pushing for voting rights in Washington today. Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight Action advocacy group is partnering with the Center for American Progress Action Fund on a press conference featuring voters from Georgia and other states.

We expect these types of events and demonstrations to grow in number and size as Democrats and voting rights activists show increasing impatience with Congress at the lack of progress on voting bills.

Back in June, a group of Georgia pastors also traveled to Washington with a similar agenda. A couple of weeks ago, Georgia U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson was arrested during a voting rights protest on Capitol Hill.


At a stop Monday in Atlanta, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra applauded Georgia Democrats for pursuing a “workaround” to compel the state to expand the Medicaid program.

“There’s a proposal that the state has put on the table, and we’re reviewing it. We’d like to work with them. We’d like to make it work,” he said, adding: “Georgia’s in the conversation. We just have to do it right.”

Becerra spoke at a roundtable event focused on Black maternal health at the Center for Black Women Wellness in Atlanta. Physicians, midwives and advocates urged more federal funding aimed at reducing the stark disparity in the state’s maternal mortality rate, which leaves Black women four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related issues than white women.

Many of the attendees said that while expanding Medicaid would be a welcome step, state and federal leaders need to take more drastic action to narrow the gap. They urged more money for pilot programs and research initiatives, along with new laws that allow midwives broader medical authorities.

Becerra promised to heed the advice as he called for Gov. Brian Kemp and others to take more strident steps to reduce the number of uninsured Georgians. He said the burden was on the state’s GOP leaders to prove the Medicaid waiver they requested, which would allow them flexibility in operating the program, could meet key thresholds.

“The bottom line is Medicaid is about getting people access to quality care at an affordable price,” the secretary said. “If you want a waiver from having to fall into those laws, you’ve got to prove to us you’re going to expand access to more people with better care at a better price.”


POSTED: Even without a clear idea of who all will be challenging Georgia U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock next year, we do have a pretty good picture of how Republicans plan to attack him on his record.

The themes will be familiar to anyone who was watching during last year’s special election. Republicans will say that Warnock’s positions are too liberal for Georgia voters, making him unfit to represent the state.

But we also know that he remains popular with Democrats. Next year’s election, which is expected to be close, will depend heavily on which side does a better job turning out its base.

Read more of this early analysis of next year’s Georgia Senate race.


U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is catching flack for spreading baseless theories about the Jan. 6 Capitol attack after his conversation was recorded by an Atlanta woman who later shared the video with the Washington Post. The Wisconsin Republicans’ remarks show the length to which some conservatives are going to spread a false narrative not just about the insurrection but also the coronavirus pandemic.

The video of Johnson’s remarks was taken by Bridget Kurt, a 49-year-old Atlanta resident and hospice employee who was staying at the Radisson hotel in Wauwatosa while visiting family. She said she approached Johnson in the hotel bar after the political event ended and the premises were reopened to the public.

Kurt said she was compelled to confront Johnson as a lifelong Republican who has been dismayed with party leaders’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the Jan. 6 attack.

Here is how Johnson responded after Kurt mentioned working at a Georgia hospice and asked the senator to encourage people to get vaccinated:

“I’m not going to do that,” Johnson responded as his supporters jeered Kurt. “I don’t encourage or discourage.”

Before leaving the room, Kurt said: “But you’re saying things that are counterproductive and not scientific. So, I just wanted you to know.”


Republican Senate candidate Gary Black is outlining his anti-crime platform at the Georgia Sheriffs Association meeting in Jekyll Island this morning.

He plans to call for a “nationwide effort to re-fund law enforcement” and recruit more police officers and sheriff’s deputies.

“Some politicians put elections above public safety and our police and sheriff personnel are caught in a literal crossfire,” he’s set to say in prepared remarks. “Crime ravages families – disproportionately minority and poor families.”


Congressman John Lewis wrote his latest graphic novel with Andrew Aydin even as he underwent treatment for the pancreatic cancer that took his life last year.

A follow-up to the duo’s three-part series “March,” the new comic is titled “Run: Book One” and focuses on Lewis’ activism after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law in 1965. It officially hits store shelves today.

When we spoke to Aydin about the book last month, he described Lewis’ trajectory as similar to a classic superhero story but with messy bits that should remind readers that he was a real person. He hopes that helps them realize they can be the change-agent they want to be in their own lives, inspired by Lewis.


Fort Benning is preparing to dedicate a memorial to a Black soldier who was lynched there 80 years ago, the AJC’s Jeremy Redmon reports.

Pvt. Felix Hall volunteered to join the U.S. Army as America was building up its forces amid World War II. Just 19, he disappeared in February of 1941, 10 months before the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor and the United States would enter the war. Fellow troops eventually found his body hanging in a ravine on Fort Benning.

Federal authorities investigated for months but never solved the crime. Of the many Black people who were lynched in America, Hall is the only one known to have been killed on a military installation, according to the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University, which has extensively researched the case.


In other news:

  • Tyler Adams, a former policy adviser to Gov. Brian Kemp, has joined Connect Public Relations as a senior vice president.
  • Former state Sen. Fran Millar was feted in a bipartisan ceremony in Dunwoody to celebrate the renaming of a section of I-285 in his honor.


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