WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Senate Rules Committee held its first field hearing in 20 years on Monday, with senators and witnesses heading to Georgia to testify on the slate of Republican voter suppression efforts in the state and the necessity of federal action to protect voting rights. Witnesses included Sen. Rafael Warnock (D-Ga.), Georgia State Rep. Billy Mitchell (D), Georgia State Sen. Sally Harrell (D), Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda Executive Director Helen Butler and Georgia voters who faced long lines and other challenges casting their ballots last election. No Republican committee members attended the hearing.
During the two-hour hearing, Democratic members highlighted Georgia’s recently-enacted voter suppression law, Senate Bill 202, which was rushed through the Legislature and will disproportionately harm Black and Brown voters in the state. Many provisions included in the law will threaten the integrity of future elections, allowing partisan county boards to remove election officials and giving the state Legislature more power to dispute or overturn election results. But there are solutions to protect voters before the next election, said committee member Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.): “The blatant racial targeting of this legislation [S.B. 202] makes it so clear how vital it is that we restore the preclearance provisions under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and the legislation to restore preclearance is, indeed, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. And our efforts to pass that legislation will continue robustly.”
The hearing was announced after Senate Republicans blocked debate on the For the People Act in June. Soon after, Committee Chair Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) promised that the committee would keep attention on the dire need for voting rights legislation by holding a series of field hearings, starting in Georgia.