April 23, 2024 2:59 am
Search
Close this search box.

Local News

Groups reflect on critical step toward equal access to ballot box

Credit: iStock

By Shanteya Hudson, March 5, 2024

As the hearing for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act approaches, advocacy groups are reflecting on its importance.

For the nonprofit group SOWEGA Rising, which focuses on such grassroots issues as civil rights and rural growth, there have been significant changes in how they can engage the community in voting.

Sherrell Byrd, SOWEGA executive director, said they’ve had to shift their efforts away from strategies that helped secure funding and engage voters in line.

“It is now a felony in the state of Georgia for any organization or individual to provide water and snacks and aid to people who are standing in line. We’ve also seen changes as it relates to absentee ballots and how people can turn in their absentee ballots,” Byrd explained.

Byrd argues that laws such as these continuously create barriers to accessing the polls. The John Lewis Act would enhance the government’s ability to address voting discrimination and ensure equal access to the ballot box.

Byrd emphasized the significance of this issue, highlighting the wide variations in voting laws across different states. According to the 2023 Brennan Center for Justice Voting Laws Roundup, 14 states enacted restrictive voting laws, while others sought to enhance voting accessibility.

“It’s important for America to have just a baseline that this is at the very least what the minimum access should look like across the board so that every American that has the right to vote can have easy and safe access to the polls, ” Byrd continued.

She highlighted the obstacles that have hindered individuals of color, those with disabilities, and rural dwellers, emphasizing the pressing need for sharing their respective experiences.

“I think what’s important that people don’t understand is the power of their story and of their narrative, and what you’re dealing with in your state matters,” Byrd stressed. “And so, contact your legislators, contact your senators. Let them know your challenges that you may be experiencing at the polls, so they can be armed with that information when they have their Senate hearings.”

Named after late civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis, the bill was reintroduced by Democratic Senators Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Dick Durbin of Illinois. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the John Lewis Act on March 12.

This story is republished from Public News Story under a Creative Commons license. Read the original story.

Georgia Legislature approves coverage to help first responders cope with job-related PTSD treatment

The Ashley Wilson Act, named for Gwinnett police sergeant Ashley Wilson, passed unanimously in the Georgia House of Representatives, aiming to provide supplemental health insurance for first responders diagnosed with PTSD due to on-the-job experiences. This landmark legislation, celebrated for its potential to significantly aid in the recovery and support of traumatized first responders, reflects a broader recognition of PTSD’s serious impact on public safety personnel, promising financial and treatment support beginning January 1, 2025.

FAFSA delays pose challenges for Georgia college-bound students

Students across Georgia are facing delays in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process, particularly challenging due to its late January rollout and additional complications for mixed-status families. Despite these setbacks, the Department of Education has implemented fixes for major issues, and officials, including MorraLee Keller of the National College Attainment Network, urge students not to give up on securing financial aid for college.