Ryan Coogler On Keeping ‘Black Panther II’ In Georgia While Combating Repressive Election Laws – Guest Column – Deadline

The fight for full enfranchisement is fundamental to the African-American struggle in this country and to this country’s claim to functioning democracy. As an African-American, and as a citizen, I oppose all attempts, explicit and otherwise, to shrink the electorate and reduce access to the ballot. I say this as I return to Georgia, a state that holds a special place in my heart. I lived in Atlanta for eight months while filming my last movie. I have long looked forward to returning. But, when I was informed of the passage of SB202 in the state, and its ramifications for the state’s voters, I was profoundly disappointed.

While I wished to turn my concern into action, I could not do so without first being educated on the specifics of Georgia. Having now spoken with voting rights activists in the state, I have come to understand that many of the people employed by my film, including all the local vendors and businesses we engage, are the very same people who will bear the brunt of SB202. For those reasons, I will not be engaging in a boycott of Georgia. What I will be doing is using my voice to emphasize the effects of SB202, its shameful roots in Jim Crow, and doing all I can to support organizations fighting voter suppression here in the state.

Senate Bill 202 will:

  • Shorten the absentee ballot request period
  • Shorten the absentee application return deadline
  • Ban out-of-precinct provisional voting except for 5pm-7pm on Election Day
  • Add additional ID requirements for voting by mail (photocopy of ID for those without state ID/Driver’s Licenses)
  • Ban mobile voting
  • Truncate the runoff period
  • Outlaw private funding for elections administration
  • Impose a date of birth requirement on absentee ballots
  • Criminalize handing out water/snacks to voters in line
  • Add new restrictions on polling location hours extensions
  • Severely limit number of drop boxes and hours of availability for their use and
  • Transfer massive election authority to statehouse Republicans, including control of the State Election Board and the ability to remove county election officials who don’t do their bidding

The U.S. House passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act. This key legislation will make critical reforms for voting rights. The Senate must now do its job by passing S. 1.

H.R. 1 will expand access to the ballot by:

  • Taking aim at barriers to voting, like burdensome registration systems and limited voting hours
  • Creating automatic voter registration across the country
  • Ensuring that individuals who have completed felony sentences have their full rights restored
  • Expanding voting by mail and early voting

H.R. 1 fights back against Republicans’ assault on voting rights by:

  • Committing Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act
  • Prohibiting voter roll purges like those seen in Georgia and elsewhere and
  • Ensuring that discriminatory voter ID laws do not prevent Americans citizens from exercising their rights.

H.R. 1 also ends partisan gerrymandering to prevent politicians from picking their voters.

The For the People Act has broad-based support for its provisions to:

  • Reduce the role of big money in politics
  • Strengthen ethics laws
  • Empower voters and expand access to the franchise
  • Outlaw voter purging,
  • Restore the Voting Rights Act and
  • Protect our right to free, fair and safe elections.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would bring back pre-clearance which is needed now more than ever.

Our film is staying in Georgia. Additionally, I have made a personal commitment to raise awareness about ways to help overturn this harmful bill, and continue to get educated on this matter from people on the ground. I will encourage everyone working with me to tap in with the local community directly affected by Senate Bill 202 and to leverage their influence and resources to aid in the fight for this particular and essential pillar of democracy.

I will also be donating to Fair Fight Action. You can do the same at http://www.stopjimcrow2.com