Various Republican defenders of Georgia’s new voting law have the audacity to claim, with a straight face, that the law “expands” voting rights. They must not have read the plain words of the 98 page law. If they have read it, they must be assuming their listeners will not.
On Friday April 2nd Nick Corasaniti and Reid J. Epstein of the New York Times went to the trouble of actually reading and analyzing the law that has resulted, among other things, in Major League Baseball pulling the All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest. The article itself is a scathing point by point layout of the meaning of the words of the law. If you have access to the NYTimes (or haven’t used up your free articles) here’s the link: What Georgia’s Voting Law Really Does. I’ve pasted the article’s summary below. (Note that clicking any one of the bullet points will take you to the NYTimes article.)
Here are the most significant changes to voting in the state, as written into the new law:
- Voters will now have less time to request absentee ballots.
- There are strict new ID requirements for absentee ballots.
- It’s now illegal for election officials to mail out absentee ballot applications to all voters.
- Drop boxes still exist … but barely.
- Mobile voting centers (think an R.V. where you can vote) are essentially banned.
- Early voting is expanded in a lot of small counties, but probably not in more populous ones.
- Offering food or water to voters waiting in line now risks misdemeanor charges.
- If you go to the wrong polling place, it will be (even) harder to vote.
- If election problems arise, a common occurrence, it is now more difficult to extend voting hours.
- With a mix of changes to vote-counting, high-turnout elections will probably mean a long wait for results.
- Election officials can no longer accept third-party funding (a measure that nods to right-wing conspiracy theories).
- With an eye toward voter fraud, the state attorney general will manage an election hotline.
- The Republican-controlled legislature has more control over the State Election Board.
- The secretary of state is removed as a voting member of the State Election Board.
- The G.O.P.-led legislature is empowered to suspend county election officials.
- Runoff elections will happen faster — and could become harder to manage.
The no food and water clause has gotten quite a bit of press, simply because it is so blatantly inhumane, but it is actually one of the least of the sweeping efforts to differentially strangle voting rights that are contained in this law. The words of the law result in cutting the number of drop boxes in most of metropolitan Atlanta (a predominantly Democratic area) from 94 to 23 while at the same time limiting access to them to government hours only. As a Washington State voter who often drops his ballot in a drop box in that late evening or early morning at an outdoor drop box at the local library, that restriction hits home. Still more chilling is the partisan legislature’s takeover of election control from the Georgia Secretary of State and county election officials. Recall that Brad Raffensperger, the current SOS, stood up to Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn Georgia’s election result—and recorded the conference call as evidence. Raffensperger succeeded Brian Kemp as Secretary of State. Kemp became the current governor (and signer of this law) by purging the voter roles and then overseeing his own election to the governorship.
For a close look at Brian Kemp and the history of voter suppression in Georgia (and elsewhere) watch All In: The Fight for Democracy available on Amazon Prime.
There are several ways to fight this egregious attempt to breathe new life into Jim Crow. Support the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Georgia NAACP, and other groups that have filed legal challenges to the law. Support the growing chorus of corporations that have issued statements condemning this anti-democratic power grab—and urge them to quit funding the political campaigns of those who voted for the law. (See Judd Legum, Popular Information.) But most importantly, learn about H.R.1/S1, the For the People Act, currently under consideration in the U.S. Senate, a bill that would supersede not only Georgia’s voter suppression but that of other states as well. (Of course, that also means encouraging Senators to scrap the filibuster.)
You will hear the howl of “states’ rights!!” a howl that arose from the South in response 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to our Constitution enacted following the Civil War. These are Amendments that for some years (under federal oversight) expanded the right to vote against the will of many white Southerners. The descendants those Southerns are the ones seen tear-gassing and beating voting rights marchers, including John Lewis, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in film clips from the 1960s. Having made that connection, and having traveled a little in the South in that decade, the words “states’ rights” are forever tainted.
You will also hear that H.R.1/S1 is “unconstitutional.” Those people need to read the Constitution. The U.S. Constitution, in Article I, Section 4 Elections reads [the bold is mine]:
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.
H.R.1/S1, the For the People Act, polls well among both Democrats and Republicans for the simple reason that it defends what most Americans feel is important: bolstering the voice of the people and shining light on big money influence in politics. The Act is so popular that wordmeisters hired by wealthy Republican cannot find an argument that sways voters against it. They conclude that to block the Act they will have resort to “under the Dome” strategies—a scathing indictment of their intent.¹
There is no issue that is more fundamental to the preservation and furtherance of our democracy than the passage of the For the People Act. Pay attention. Add your voice. Write to your Senators. Talk with people—this should not be a partisan issue. Donate your support.
Keep to the high ground,
From Thom Hartmann’s April 2 column, “There’s a Bizarre Strategy Behind the GOP Culture Wars & Obstruction.”
When Grover Norquist’s research showed that HR1, the For The People Act, was popular even with conservatives because it “prevents billionaires from buying elections,” the Republicans on the phone call decided they’d have to double down on their “under the dome strategy.”
“Under the dome” is GOP-speak for political obstruction in the state and federal capitols. Buying off legislators and twisting arms. Threatening the political futures of people who may do what’s best for the country but doesn’t enrich the billionaires. The sort of thing they’ve been all about for 40 years now, instead of the people’s business.