The 2020 elections in Georgia should have been cause for celebration among everyone, not just Democrats who won the state’s presidential and Senate races. Amid extremely challenging conditions, election officials took smart, public-spirited steps to ensure that as many voters as possible could participate.
That should have been widely cheered. Yet it’s precisely what the state’s Republican officials apparently want to ensure never happens again.
Georgia Republicans just passed a far-reaching voter suppression law that is shockingly blatant in its efforts to restrict voting. It was signed Thursday by Gov. Brian Kemp (R), as one Democratic lawmaker who sought to watch was arrested.
In multiple ways, the measure appears designed to target African American voters, the very voters who drove the 2020 Democratic wins. That complaint is at the core of a new lawsuit filed on Thursday night against the law.
But the lawsuit also exposes — in a fresh way — the appalling dishonesty of Republicans who continue using former president Donald Trump’s lie about the election to justify voter suppression efforts everywhere.
Voter suppression on steroids
Most conspicuously, the new law bars third-party groups from sharing food and water with people waiting in voting lines. It imposes new ID requirements for vote-by-mail, restricts drop boxes for mail ballots and bans mobile voting places, among many other things.
The lawsuit by several voting rights groups — represented by Democratic lawyer Marc Elias — argues that the package unduly burdens the voting rights of all Georgians, disproportionately African Americans, violating the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution.
The lawsuit cites the extremely high voter turnout in the general and runoff elections, facilitated amid a raging pandemic by vote-by-mail, which was used by African American voters at higher rates than White voters.
The law is largely targeted toward that fact, the lawsuit argues. Restrictions on drop boxes and mobile voting units come after both were heavily utilized in Fulton County, a populous, majority-Black area. African Americans are more likely to use drop boxes because they more often work multiple jobs, the suit argues.
Meanwhile, bans on sharing food and water target the fact that voting lines and wait times tend to be longer in African American areas. And Black voters are disproportionately less likely to have the right ID to qualify to vote by mail, the lawsuit argues.
The critical point is that the past election worked, due to the very practices Republicans now want to curb. Organizers distributed food and water, enabling voters to brave lines. Election officials used expanded vote-by-mail, drop boxes and mobile units to facilitate pandemic voting.
“This successful mobilization was widely heralded as crucial in facilitating Black voter turnout,” the lawsuit notes. Which is precisely the problem, the lawsuit argues: What Republicans want to avert is another such “successful mobilization.”
Republicans give away the game
The justification that Republicans themselves offer for these measures gives away the real game here. Defenders say they are needed to ensure the integrity of future elections and boost public confidence in them.
But the elections in Georgia actually were conducted with absolute integrity, and the Republican secretary of state has himself attested to this. That official, Brad Raffensperger, declared the elections “safe” and “secure.”
This caused Raffensperger to become the target of Trump’s rage. But that doesn’t mean what Raffensperger said isn’t true. It is true.
This was confirmed in a statewide audit. Indeed, Raffensperger has attested to the integrity of Georgia elections more generally, declaring: “Georgia’s voting system has never been more secure or trustworthy.”
Which raises the question: Why are these new measures needed, if Georgia elections are already secure and trustworthy? Why, to avert another “successful mobilization.”
As the lawsuit argues, the very fact that GOP election officials confirmed the integrity of Georgia elections shows the measures “serve no legitimate purpose or compelling state interest other than to make absentee, early, and election-day voting more difficult — especially for minority voters.”
Yes, the law doesn’t include some earlier onerous provisions, such as limits on Sunday voting drives. But that doesn’t change the fact that the many measures that are restrictive have no serious rationale.
Let’s stress this: It is empirically inescapable that there is already grounds for “confidence” in Georgia elections. Which reveals the real motive here.
The big lie becomes a cancer
All this points to a bigger lie. All across the country, Republicans are escalating voter suppression efforts, fake-justified by the lie that the election was stolen from Trump.
In the softer version of this, it’s fake-justified by the notion that many Republican voters believe that to be true and just need their “confidence” restored to ensure future participation.
But the real way to restore such confidence is to tell voters the truth: That the election was an inspiring success amid very difficult conditions — and its outcome was unimpeachably legitimate — precisely because of the integrity of election workers everywhere. Grounds for confidence in future elections have been reaffirmed.
Republican officials cannot tell their voters this truth, because the very fact that Republicans lost the election legitimately is what necessitates the new voter suppression efforts. Telling that truth would deprive Republicans of their rationale for them.
But in Georgia, GOP officials actually did tell them the truth — yet GOP lawmakers are pursuing these voter suppression efforts anyway.
I don’t know if this lawsuit will succeed. But it has already laid bare a very big lie — one that will continue eating away at our politics like a cancer.