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Cornyn, Abrams spar over race and Georgia’s voting law

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During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voting rights, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, questioned Georgia activist Stacey Abrams about her state's controversial new election law.

Video Transcript

JOHN CORNYN: My first question is for Miss Abrams. Miss Abrams, is the Georgia election law that Speaker Jones talked about-- is it a racist piece of legislation?

STACEY ABRAMS: I think are components of it that are indeed racist because they use racial animus as a means of targeting the behaviors of certain voters to eliminate their-- or limit their participation in elections.

JOHN CORNYN: So you believe that the Georgia legislature made deliberate attempts to suppress the minority vote?

STACEY ABRAMS: Yes.

JOHN CORNYN: Georgia has a no-excuse absentee voting provision in that law. As Miss Jones, I think, has said, certainly in her written statement, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York do not have any no-excuse absentee voting. Are the voting laws in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York racist?

STACEY ABRAMS: I would say that they are behind the eight-ball and they need to be improved. And that's why I support For the People Act voting rights provisions that would expand access to no-excuses absentee voting. But as we explained earlier, it is how these behaviors are targeted. The state of Georgia targeted communities that used these resources for the first time to their benefit. And thus, after 15 years of Republican-dominated use of absentee balloting, it suddenly changed its mind about the utility, the processing, the timeliness, and the ability--

JOHN CORNYN: So you do think-- excuse me. We only have five minutes to ask questions, and so if you would respond to my question. So just to be clear, you think Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York, that have more restrictive no-excuse absentee voting, you believe those election laws are racist.

STACEY ABRAMS: Senator, I'm responding to your question. Your question is--

JOHN CORNYN: No, Miss Adams, you're filibustering. Could you answer yes or no?

STACEY ABRAMS: I am not. Sir, I am not filibustering. I'm stating very specifically I believe that restrictive voting laws should be addressed by the For the People Act. I believe that the Georgia decision--

JOHN CORNYN: So just to be clear, whether they're racist or not, you just-- you think they need to be changed because you disagree with them, right?

STACEY ABRAMS: No, that is not what I've said.

JOHN CORNYN: OK.

STACEY ABRAMS: I have said that those laws that were changed in 2021 in response to an increased use by people of color-- laws that were put in place by Republicans 15 years ago and they were perfectly satisfied with the utility of those laws until they were used successfully by people of color-- the intent matters.

JOHN CORNYN: And you think--

STACEY ABRAMS: And the intent behind these laws--

JOHN CORNYN: Do you think that--

STACEY ABRAMS: --matter in the state of Georgia.

JOHN CORNYN: Do you think voter ID requirements are racist?

STACEY ABRAMS: No, sir. I have always said that-- in fact, I wrote a book about the fact--

JOHN CORNYN: Doesn't that restrict--

STACEY ABRAMS: --that I support voter identification.

JOHN CORNYN: Doesn't that restrict voting, the requirement of a voter ID?

STACEY ABRAMS: I support voter identification. What I object to is restrictive forms of voter identification that limit who is permitted to use their identifications and that create a narrower and narrower--

JOHN CORNYN: And Georgia gives a-- so you can use a free ID or a utility bill or something like that. So you don't believe that the Georgia law restricts voting because of the voter identification requirement if I--

STACEY ABRAMS: That is not what I've said, sir. What I said is that the absentee ballot requirement that now adds voter ID in an exceptionally rare usage, because it will now push almost 200,000 voters who do not have access or do not currently have those IDs out of the process.

JOHN CORNYN: So voter ID--

STACEY ABRAMS: And those are disproportionately people of color.

JOHN CORNYN: Sometimes it's racist, sometimes it's not racist?

STACEY ABRAMS: The intent always matters, sir. And that is the point of this conversation. That is the point of the Jim Crow narrative, that Jim Crow did not simply look at the activities. It looked at the intent. It looked at the behaviors. And it targeted behaviors that were disproportionately used by people of color.

JOHN CORNYN: Do you know that Gallup says that 69% of Black voters support voter ID, and 75% of voters overall?

STACEY ABRAMS: Sir, I am among those who support voter ID. I've never objected to voter ID. I object to narrowly tailoring and narrowing the permissive ability--

JOHN CORNYN: So you agree with voter ID in some circumstances and not in others?

STACEY ABRAMS: That's not what I've said, sir. I have said--

JOHN CORNYN: No, you said based on intent. So voter ID without malintent is OK?

STACEY ABRAMS: No, sir. That's not what I said.

JOHN CORNYN: Well--

STACEY ABRAMS: Senator--

JOHN CORNYN: Mr.--

STACEY ABRAMS: --I'm happy to respond to your questions.

JOHN CORNYN: Miss Jones--

STACEY ABRAMS: But if you're going to--

JOHN CORNYN: --I have a question for you in my remaining time.

STACEY ABRAMS: --mischaracterize my responses, that's inappropriate.