Members of the Georgia NAACP and Protect The Vote Georgia protest outside the Georgia State Capitol on Monday, March 8, 2021. Photo by: Itoro N. Umontuen / The Atlanta Voice

Last year I saw some very tough setbacks and some very exciting wins. After serving as a server at the Westin Peachtree Plaza for 25 years, I was fired because of COVID-19. I have diabetes and heart disease, so losing my job and my health insurance has been a tremendous burden. I knew we needed change. I knew we had to work to choose leaders who fight on the issues that matter to working people like me, like quality health care and adequate unemployment assistance.

Although I had problems, I laced up my shoes and went to work. Along with my UNITE HERE colleagues, I knocked on doors and spoke to my neighbors to build support for new leadership in Georgia and Washington. And of course I voted because I’ve been voting in every election since I was 18. Together we made the change we needed.

Now there are politicians who are very afraid of what we could achieve in Georgia. So they try to silence our voices. Because of this, the Georgian legislature passed and Governor Kemp signed a huge voter suppression law in March that is now the law of the country. And that’s not what I will stand for.

Let us be clear that voting in Georgia can already be difficult. Despite my health and the threat of the pandemic, I stood in line for 90 minutes last year to vote on election day. Many of us also remember the debacle of the 2018 elections, in which thousands of voters were mistakenly removed from the voting lists and never had the opportunity to vote. Instead of fixing these issues and addressing urgent issues like the catastrophically slow adoption of vaccines in Georgia, politicians are working overtime to make the vote even more difficult.

The new law limits the amount of time voters can request postal votes and adds tough new ID requirements for postal voting, making voting more difficult for the elderly and poorer voters, not to mention those of us who don’t feel safe having one Cast a copy of our ID by post. Voting officials are also prohibited from sending requests for postal votes to all voters.

Other provisions are clearly intended to remove power from voters of colors, workers and everyday Georgians and hand them over directly to the state assembly. Legislators now have more control over the State Election Board and can suspend county election officials. It’s scary to think that we give politicians the ability to reverse election results if they don’t like the way they shake off.

Some of the measures show downright contempt for voters, like the one that makes it illegal to give food or water to voters in line, or the one that makes it nearly impossible to put a preliminary vote if you happen to be wrong show up polling station.

This is not the way I was raised to believe in voting. My mother and grandmother taught me the importance of our voices being heard, and I hope I can pass that value on to my daughter too. I have always believed that protecting the right to vote is an issue that should go beyond politics as it affects progress on everything that is important to us: a quick end to this pandemic, health insurance and care for all, and justice for our communities . Unfortunately, politicians who don’t think the same way are trying to bring us back across the country.

That is why we need Congress to act immediately. We couldn’t stop the dangerous bills here in Georgia, so we need the For
The People’s Law was passed nationally to protect everyone’s right to vote and to make our system fairer, more representative and more accountable to the people. It would reduce the power of big money in politics and modernize our elections. It would require each state to offer same day voter registration, make election day a public holiday, and stop purging illegal voters. And it would lift some of the new restrictions we are seeing in Georgia and other states.

Many of us worked hard for change in 2020. As a union worker and community organizer, I know we want to keep working on it. It should be the voters – not a group of politicians in the statehouse – who can decide our future.