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New bill would ban state-paid travel to Georgia over voting law

ALBANY — Two New York legislators are calling for a ban on state-paid travel to Georgia as a protest against that state’s new voting law which critics call racist and unconstitutional.

Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) and Assemb. Gina Sillitti (D-Port Washington) introduced the bill Tuesday in response to the Georgia law, which places more requirements and restrictions on voting.

The bill would suspend "all unnecessary travel by government agencies, departments, boards, divisions, authorities, and commissions as long as" the Georgia voting law is in effect. Travel for New York state business under the bill would still be allowed for emergencies such as lending help to Georgia in a natural disaster; law enforcement; to honor existing contracts; and to protect public health and safety. If the bill is passed into New York law, it would be repealed immediately if Georgia repeals its voting law.

The Georgia law limits the time to participate in mail-in voting after Georgians used the system in record numbers last year, requires identification to vote by mail, and bans food and water to voters waiting in line, among other measures. Republicans who proposed the law says it will enhance integrity of voting and expand in-person voting, but Democrats say it is aimed at disenfranchising Black voters.

"Georgia’s blatantly racist attempt to disenfranchise voters and suppress voting access is shameful," Gaughran said. The Georgia law "rolls back voting laws to the Jim Crow era and is a reminder of our nation’s original sin."

Sillitti said the Georgia law suppresses voting rights. "This is 2021, not 196l," she said. "It is unconscionable to me that a governor would use his elected authority to suppress those rights of anyone."

"It’s more symbolic than substantive, but it’s substantive in that it really sends a message," said Doug Muzzio, political scientist at Baruch College, said of the proposal. "You have to wait for the next shoe to drop — whether it be another state or a major corporation."

In 2016, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo banned travel to North Carolina after that state barred transgender people from using restrooms matching their gender identities. In 2019, a federal judge approved a settlement that prohibits the state from banning transgender people from bathrooms in state buildings that match their gender identity.

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