Republicans go after Stacey Abrams at Senate hearing on voting rights

David Knowles
·Senior Editor
·5-min read

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee took aim at former Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams on Tuesday during a hearing on voting rights.

Abrams, who politicians of both parties credit with helping secure election victories for Democrats in the 2020 presidential and 2021 Senate runoff elections in Georgia, was called to testify on a panel titled “Jim Crow 2021: The Latest Assault on the Right to Vote.” This gave Republicans on the Judiciary Committee the opportunity to question her about her belief that voting laws being pushed through Republican-led state legislatures are a thinly disguised effort to keep people of color from participating in elections. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked Abrams whether she supported voter identification laws. 

“Yes,” Abrams responded. “There are 35 states in the United States that have had voter identification laws. In fact, every state requires some form of identification. What I’ve objected to is restrictive voter identification laws that narrow the set of permissible materials —” 

“The answer is yes as a concept,” Graham interrupted. “Do you support the idea that voting should be limited to American citizens?”

“Yes,” Abrams replied.

Following a back-and-forth about so-called ballot harvesting, Graham then asked Abrams about Georgia’s new voting law, which is known as S.B. 202. 

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 20: U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) attends a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voting rights on Capitol Hill on April 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Among the other witnesses who will testify are U.S. Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT); Stacey Abrams, Founder of Fair Fight Action; and Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein-Pool/Getty Images)
Sen. Lindsey Graham at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voting rights on Tuesday. (Evelyn Hockstein-Pool/Getty Images)

“Do you believe the Republican majority in Georgia — House, Senate — when they are making the changes to your state voting laws, do you think they’re motivated by trying to suppress the African American vote?” Graham asked. 

“I have seen it happen sometimes that they are,” Abrams replied. “I’ve seen other bills that have been truly bipartisan in nature that have looked at and fully —”

“But you believe that’s the motivation behind,” Graham interrupted. “Do you believe that’s the motivation behind these laws?”

Abrams then referred to her time in the Georgia House of Representatives, where she served as Democratic minority leader before running for governor, and her work with Republicans in the chamber such as Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones.  

“I believe the motivation behind certain provisions in S.B. 202 are a direct result to the increased participation of communities of color in the 2020 and 2021 elections. I have participated for 11 years, as Speaker Pro Tem Jones pointed out, we served together and almost every year there was a voting law. And when those voting laws were neutral, not only on their face —”

“Well, I’m out of time,” Graham interrupted again. “Do you think the speaker of the House, speaker pro tem, the lady, Jan Jones, is motivated by trying to limit the African American voters in Georgia?”

“I believe there is racial animus that generated those bills,” Abrams answered. “I would not assume that that racial animus is shared by every person, but the result is that racial animus exists and it eliminates access to the right to vote, regardless of a certain person’s heart, if the effect is deleterious to the ability of people of color to participate in elections, then that is problematic and that is wrong and it should be rejected by all.”

UNITED STATES - March 23: Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, attends the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on
Sen. John Cornyn. (Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images)

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was more direct than Graham, asking Abrams whether the Georgia election law was “a racist piece of legislation.”

“I think there are components of it that are indeed racist, because they use racial animus as a means for targeting the behaviors of certain voters to limit their participation in elections,” Abrams responded. 

“So you believe that the Georgia Legislature made deliberate attempts to suppress the minority vote?” 

“Yes,” Abrams replied. 

Cornyn then pressed Abrams on whether states with no-excuse absentee voting, rather than the all-mail voting practiced in a handful of states, should be considered racist. 

“They are behind the eight ball,” Abrams responded.

“But are they racist?” Cornyn asked. “You are filibustering.”

“I’m saying that changing things now, after increased minority turnout, matters,” Abrams replied. 

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 20: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) attends a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voting rights on Capitol Hill on April 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Among the other witnesses who will testify are U.S. Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT); Stacey Abrams, Founder of Fair Fight Action; and Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein-Pool/Getty Images)
Sen. Ted Cruz. (Evelyn Hockstein-Pool/Getty Images)

When it was his turn to question Abrams, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, noted that she still had not conceded her loss in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial election to Republican Brian Kemp. 

“Yes or no, today, do you still maintain the 2018 Georgia election was stolen?” Cruz asked. 

“As I have always said, I acknowledged at the very beginning that Brian Kemp won under the rules that were in place. What I object to are rules that permitted thousands of Georgia voters to be denied their participation in this election, to have their votes cast out. And so I will continue to disagree with the system until it is fixed. We have seen marked progress made, and unfortunately it was undone in S.B. 202, but I will continue to advocate for a system that permits every eligible Georgian to cast their ballots —”

“Ms. Abrams,” Cruz interrupted, “I’m going to ask you to please answer the question I asked, which is, yes or no, do you still maintain the 2018 election was stolen? That’s your language.”

“My full language was that it was stolen from the voters of Georgia,” Abrams replied. “We do not know what they would have done because not every eligible Georgian was permitted to participate fully in the election.”

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