This week choosing the subject matter of the Sunday article was easy. The story will center on Georgia but it is close to nationwide and the anti-democracy forces that currently control the Republican Party and present a potentially mortal threat to America have DC as their intended destination. Plenty here, let’s start to unpack it.
Georgia had been in the process of implementing some voting reforms for a few weeks now. After some debate, activism and corporate activity the Georgia State Senate passed a two-page bill. In a matter of a single work day, it became a 100-page bill renamed the Election Integrity Act of 2021, passed the Georgia House, went back to the Senate, passed, went to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and was signed into law.
The two page version was bad; the 100 page version is much worse! I won’t go into all of it today but its intent is to make it much more difficult for people to vote and in the event that a Democrat wins an important office the Georgia Republicans are effectively reserving the right to simply overturn the will of the people. That is about as far from protecting the integrity of a democratic election as you can get; in fact it is the direct opposite and is something you would expect in a dystopian novel.
The Georgia Republicans got their hind ends handed to them in November of 2020 and more importantly, (Trump could have won Georgia and he still would have lost), in the January 2021 Senate runoffs. Georgia turning blue in a presidential election has been coming for a long time. It is far from in the bag for the Democrats over the next few presidential cycles; Trump was a terrible nominee. Losing both Senate runoffs with the chamber’s control at stake was an unforgivable GOP loss that never should have happened. Losing to a Black and a Jewish Democrat in a former confederate state made it even more embarrassing for them. Prejudice exists in America especially in the Deep South.
Now if you think the Republicans in the Georgia legislature are smart enough to turn a 2 page bill into a 100 page bill overnight I suggest you go feed the unicorns on your lawn. That bill was written long before that and was just an eleventh-hour surprise which they rushed thorough. It appears that the Heritage Foundation has taken the place of ALEC in writing boilerplate voter suppression bills for state level Republican legislators. I don’t know for certain that this happened in this case but it certainly sounds believable.
I find the runoff situation interesting. Georgia still has a 50% election rule. You have to win the election with 50% plus one vote or the top two vote getters go to a runoff. This is a vestige of Jim Crow when the fear was that two white candidates would split the racist vote allowing a Black to slip in with less than an outright majority. In November of 2020 this actually cost Republican David Perdue his Senate seat. He won in November but failed to hit 50% subsequently losing in the runoff. The wise and fair move would have simply been to get rid of the old law. Instead the Republicans shortened the period between the regular and runoff elections from 9 to 4 weeks. They feel in a red state that will be to their advantage and I tend to agree with them.
The real disgrace is what they did to election integrity via Board of Elections control. This was a two-pronged attack. First the Act removes the Secretary of State from chairing the State Board and in fact removes them as a voting member. It also gives the Legislature the right to appoint the majority of the Board’s members. In a state, like Georgia, where the Republicans control the Legislature they effectively control the State Board of Elections.
If that weren’t bad enough, they built in another “safeguard”. The State Board can remove any County Board of Elections at any time. This sets up a scenario where the State Board conveniently removes the Board in a county, or a few counties, that voted overwhelmingly Democratic in the process eliminating those votes from being counted. That can easily change the outcome. Can you imagine Georgia without one or more of the counties around Atlanta? Or Wisconsin without the Milwaukee area counties. Or Pennsylvania without the Philadelphia and/or Pittsburgh areas. How about North Carolina without Wake (Raleigh), Durham or Mecklenburg (Charlotte). You get the idea.
This legislation has absolutely nothing to do with election integrity (and I only went into the two provisions I find the most egregious); it is about selecting whose votes get to count.
Now let’s look at why it can work. It comes down to one word – gerrymandering. State legislative district are so gerrymandered that the general is almost an afterthought; the real election is the primary. Turnout in primaries is abysmal therefore with only the hard core of showing up the most extreme candidates end up in the legislatures.
These laws are clearly an overstep (I’m being polite in my verbiage selection again). The Georgia statute was already being challenged in the courts less than 24 hours after it was signed. I think the GOP welcomes the lawsuits. It wants to take this all the way to the Supreme Court who, even before the additions of Brett Kavanagh and Amy Coney Barrett, was siding with the voter suppression movement. There is plenty of evidence to back up my assertion but simply look no further than Shelby County.
The new Republican motto should be: Of free and fair elections we fear. If all else fails they simply want to overrule the voters. Maybe GOP really stands for Government of Our People. This is huge and the reality is that most Americans don’t even realize it is happening. Apathy kills democracies which historically fall from within.
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