Senate Democrats hold field hearing in Atlanta on voter suppression laws

It’s been more than two decades since a Senate hearing called a "field hearing," has taken place outside of Washington, D.C.

Instead of the U.S. Capitol, Senate Democrats chose Georgia’s capital to hold a hearing highlighting what they call voter suppression laws.

There were no Republican leaders at Monday’s hearing at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Senate Democrats said they wanted a bipartisan discussion. By contrast, in a phone call with reporters, Governor Brian Kemp charged the hearing was unfair.

"It doesn’t matter if it’s the DOJ, the DNC, or the Senate Democrats, we aren’t backing down," he said. "We’re going to continue to fight for the truth and we’re going to stand up for secure, accessible, and fair elections."

Senate Democrats said they chose the location in Downtown Atlanta to hold the first field hearing in 20 years for a reason. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said it was to "spotlight the undermining of freedoms to vote."

Several local witnesses including State Sen. Sally Harrell and Senator Raphael Warnock fielded questions about new voting laws sweeping the country.

Helen Butler from the Georgia Coalition for the people’s agenda said she helps voters navigate a potentially confusing process— but worries she won’t be able to under new voting laws.

"I can’t help them (illiterate people) with their ballot, it has to be a relative or a caretaker," she said.

Others, like José Segarra from Houston County, said hours-long wait times will only worsen with tighter restrictions on mail-in voting and stipulations on who can and cannot hand out water to voters in line.

"It’s unacceptable that people in Houston, Cobb, and Chatham counties may have to miss half a day of work," he said.

Governor Brian Kemp has said the law prevents people from heckling voters and the RNC said it makes it quote "easier to vote and harder to cheat," although there has been no significant evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Sen. Klobuchar said the committee did offer other Republicans the opportunity to provide witnesses to defend the law but none attended the hearing Monday.

During a call with reporters that same day, and minutes after that statement, Governor Kemp continued to back the voting law, senate bill 202, and responded directly to Sen. Klobuchar about a lack of Republican representation.

"AG Carr and I were on a crime panel," he said. "I don’t think anything about this hearing has been fair."

"I’ve done over 90 interviews with people asking about 202," Kemp said.

Both sides defend their arguments and vow not to back down.

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