His colleague Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” dodged rather than condemned: “I don’t know the details,” he said, after days of the law making headlines around the country.
In a more rational world, a provision like that would make legislators rethink their support for the whole bill, which would further restrict Georgians’ voting rights. Not in today’s GOP, though.
“In Georgia, you had an explosion of mail-in balloting,” Graham argued in defending the law’s new limits on absentee and mail ballots. “The Carter-Baker Commission in 2005 looked at our election system and they had two warnings for us. Absentee mail voting is ripe for fraud, and ballot harvesting, where an individual can collect ballots on behalf of other people, is a threat to democracy as we know it.”
Note that Graham had to go back to a 2005 commission report rather than cite specific instances of widespread fraud — because they don’t exist.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) was even more forthright: “You look at the Georgia law, there’s no voter suppression. … All you need [to vote absentee] is some, some verification of ID, and so does every department of transportation in America in order to drive.”
That is supposed common sense, except for two problems: First, we have the right to vote; no one has the right to drive. So it should be easier to vote than it is to drive. Second, these tighter ID requirements will make it more difficult for poor and minority voters to vote, all in the name of rooting out alleged fraud, which Georgia Republicans such as Gov. Brian Kemp have admitted is nonexistent.
Even more outlandish were these senators’ claims about H.R. 1, the voting rights expansion just passed by the House and now before the Senate. “H.R. 1 is the biggest power grab in the history of the country. It institutionalizes ballot harvesting. It does away with the voter ID requirement,” Graham said.
As for Toomey, he said of H.R. 1, “We ought to be asking our Democratic colleagues: Why are they so insistent that we not have any mechanism to verify that a person seeking to vote is, in fact, the person that they say they are?”
And on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) topped all his colleagues: “Democrats think we’d be better off if more murderers and rapists and child molesters were voting.”
Not surprisingly, every one of these tales is false. H.R. 1 can’t institutionalize fraudulent “ballot harvesting” — where political operatives tamper with collected absentee ballots — because it doesn’t exist. (The closest similar incident, in 2018, actually involved a Republican in North Carolina.) Nor does it do away with voter ID laws; it just allows voters to provide a sworn written statement in place of ID, a system already used successfully in a number of states. (It’s also worth noting that more than a dozen states — including red states such as Wyoming and Nebraska — have no voter ID requirements.)
And as usual, Cruz’s claim is the biggest whopper. The bill would restore voting rights to anyone convicted of a crime only after they have served their sentence — equal to or tougher than the standard already used in much of the country, including Cruz’s home state of Texas.
Any truly democratic system should make it as easy as possible to exercise one’s right to vote while maintaining the system’s integrity. H.R. 1 understands that we’ve succeeded remarkably well on the latter count, and focuses instead on the former, by reducing restrictions that have no practical effect except making it more difficult for some Americans to vote.
The question is whether there are 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus who recognize the importance of this remedy. Most otherwise pro-filibuster senators, such as Angus King (I-Maine), realize that “all-out opposition to reasonable voting rights protections cannot be enabled by the filibuster.” But Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) continues to insist that he’ll need bipartisan support before he will back the whole bill, leaving it one vote short.
In the short term, other Democrats can still indulge Manchin’s naivete and expand voting rights. While H.R. 1 is up in the air, the Senate is also considering House-passed legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act, which was renewed numerous times on a bipartisan basis until a conservative Supreme Court gutted it in 2013.
If, as one suspects, Republicans now declare the Voting Rights Act a partisan horror, perhaps the scales will fall from the West Virginian’s eyes. But in the longer term, Democrats must, perversely, take heart from the size of the GOP’s distortions. That Republicans’ excuses for inaction are (even by GOP standards) so thin shows the scale of the problem; that they are so panicked about H.R. 1 bodes well for its effectiveness when finally passed. The battle for voting rights is long, but it is well worth winning.