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GA Election Official Accidentally Tells the Truth About Why Republicans Really Want Voting Restrictions

GA Election Official Accidentally Tells the Truth About Why Republicans Really Want Voting Restrictions
Conservative Republican Women of N.E. Georgia/Facebook

A lot happened in Georgia in the last 12 months.

In February, Ahmaud Arbery was chased down and murdered in a mostly White neighborhood for the crime of jogging while Black. Throughout 2020, voting rights activist and community organizer Stacey Abrams mobilized Georgia voters, culminating in the state choosing Democrat Joe Biden over incumbent Republican Donald Trump for President in November.

Then on January 5, 2021 voters decided to send two Democrats to the United States Senate over the Republican incumbents. Most people see a connection between those events.

People attributed the state's flip from red to blue to increased voter turn out inspired by civic leaders like Abrams.

In a free country, an uptick in voter participation should be seen as a positive—especially for the members of a bipartisan election board. But not everyone is a fan.

Alice O'Lenick—one of the Gwinnett County Republican Party's two representatives on the county board—told fellow Republicans she favors major election law changes at the local and state levels.

O'Lenick—the Gwinnett Board of Registrations and Elections chairwoman for 2021 - 2022—implored GOP party members to write letters and make phone calls to state legislators to encourage them to change Georgia election laws.

According to O'Lenick:

"I was on a Zoom call the other day, and I said, 'I'm like a dog with a bone. I will not let them end this session without changing some of these laws'."
"They don't have to change all of them, but they've got to change the major parts of them so that [the GOP] at least have a shot at winning."

One of the primary targets for O'Lenick is absentee voting. She suggested only certain Georgians should be allowed to ask for an absentee ballot without giving a "valid" reason for the request.

She said:

"The absentee-by-mail, you exclude the elderly and infirm (from needing an excuse), and everyone else would have to have an excuse."
"We took out a few years ago absentee-by-mail for cause, so you don't have to say a cause. You just say, 'It's not convenient. I'm just not going to go (on election day)."

This scenario ignores the fact election day in the United States is not a national holiday. Given the hours long waits experienced in the last election, in-person voting presents a major challenge to many working people.

O'Lenick's claim Republicans can only win if they restrict voting rights is being called a textbook example of saying the quiet part out loud. While critics have long accused the GOP of voter suppression—especially among minority voters—it's unusual for a Republican official to state it as fact so publicly.

The admission proved unpopular among Democrats and Republicans in Georgia.

On January 18, fifteen members of the Gwinnett County legislative delegation called on O'Lenick to resign. The legislators signed a letter addressed to her and the Gwinnett elections board.

In a post that included the letter, State Representative Sam Park wrote on his Facebook and Twitter accounts:

"We, the undersigned members of the Gwinnett State House and Senate, demand the resignation of Alice O'Lenick - Chair of the Gwinnett Board of Elections, for her inability to maintain public confidence in conducting impartial elections and her plans to suppress the vote."
"In honor of the life and legacy of Dr. King, and in light of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol along with the ongoing threats to the peaceful transfer of power, we are ready to stand and fight to protect the vote and our Democracy."

Seventeen other groups also called for her to resign or be removed.

Groups calling for O'Lenick's removal include Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, Georgia AFL-CIO, Georgia Equality, Fair Fight Action, The Lincoln Project and Voto Latino. In a statement, they said O'Lenick made it clear her motivation was ensuring GOP victory and not free and fair elections.

The public didn't offer much in support for O'Lenick either.

Despite #AliceMustGo trending online, O'Lenick vowed not to resign. In the past the Georgia Republican also stated she has Black and Hispanic friends and family, so she can't be racist.