The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Here’s another GOP voting law that’s almost comically suspect

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is calling for new measures that would restrict voting. (Alan Youngblood/AP)
Placeholder while article actions load

With Republicans launching voter-suppression efforts across the country, one emerging argument has been that such GOP efforts don’t actually work. If anything, goes this line, they inspire a counter-mobilization from Democratic voters that tends to offset those tactics — and then some.

Which raises a question: If that is so, then why don’t Republicans themselves believe this? Why do they continue to pursue policies that are so comically suspect on their face that they almost appear designed to enrage and energize the opposition?

The latest example of this comes out of Florida, as NBC News reports:

Florida Republicans are considering a bill that would effectively make it a crime to give voters food or drink, including water, within 150 feet of polling places.
State law currently prohibits campaigning within 100 feet of polling locations, but an elections bill introduced last week, H.B. 7041, expands that zone to 150 feet and includes a prohibition on giving “any item” to voters or “interacting or attempting to interact” with voters within that zone.
State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, a Republican from Spring Hill, said in a committee meeting last Monday that the ban would include “food or beverages.”

This resembles the new law Georgia Republicans just passed, which bans third-party groups from sharing food and water with people waiting in voting lines. That appears aimed at making voting more miserable for African American voters, who tend to come from areas with longer voting lines and wait times.

The new Georgia law also imposes new ID requirements for vote by mail, cuts back on drop boxes for mail ballots and bars mobile voting places. As a lawsuit filed against the law alleges, these provisions also appear to target African American voters, as drop boxes and mobile voting units were heavily utilized in 2020 in Fulton County, a heavily populated and majority-Black area. African Americans also disproportionately relied on vote by mail.

Follow Greg Sargent's opinionsFollow

The Florida bill appears similar in some ways. As NBC reports: “It would require voters to request mail ballots more frequently, add more identification requirements for mail voting, and limit how drop boxes are used.”

Marc Elias, the Democratic lawyer who is suing to overturn the Georgia law, says another lawsuit may be coming.

“It appears that Florida Republicans have looked at the outrage aimed at Georgia’s suppression law with envy rather than disgust,” Elias tells me.

Republicans in Florida appear to be “borrowing from Georgia tactics aimed at disenfranchising Black voters,” Elias continued. “I have sued Florida before over their suppressive voting laws and will not hesitate to do so again.”

We won’t know for sure what the Florida initiative will look like until it passes. But for now, what’s remarkable is the open embrace of such gratuitous, mustache-twiddling tactics: As the Florida Republican quoted by NBC confirms, here again the measure would ban selling “food or beverages” to voters in lines.

Republicans keep saying such laws are necessary to counter the rampant (fictional) voter fraud revealed in 2020. In the softer version, they say such laws will restore voter “confidence," which was supposedly shaken by the widespread belief that the 2020 results were illegitimate.

But we can dismiss these fake rationales out of hand. First, the 2020 election was a remarkable triumph of integrity, particularly given the grueling circumstances. So there are no reasonable grounds for lacking such “confidence.” In Georgia, Republican election officials attested as much.

Second, given that fact — given that expanded vote-by-mail was successfully implemented everywhere and vote counts from it were upheld in dozens of court cases — then there’s no serious rationale for specific measures rolling back vote-by-mail for the sake of inspiring “confidence.” Pretending there’s such a rationale for denying food and drink to voters is even more absurd.

Indeed, the real meaning of all this is inescapable. As David Atkins suggests, if Republican officials do need to shore up GOP voters’ “confidence," it’s only because they spent so much time feeding the lie that the election was stolen from Donald Trump.

This requires them to pass all these measures to appear to be fighting against the next massive wave of (nonexistent) fraud. As always, telling GOP voters the truth — that they should have confidence that our elections are secure — is not an option.

Of course, all these efforts really might inspire a counter-mobilization among Democratic voters. But if Republicans have any fear at all of this happening, they certainly aren’t showing it. For some reason, they think all this voter suppression is in their party’s interests. Maybe we should accept the meaning of that at face value.

Read more:

Michelle Au: Georgia Republicans were quiet about their attack on voting rights, but, oh, did they laugh

Hugh Hewitt: The House looks like a GOP lock in 2022, but the Senate will be much harder

Jennifer Rubin: Republicans’ blunder on voting rights

A. Kirsten Mullen and William A. Darity Jr.: Evanston, Ill., approved ‘reparations.’ Except it isn’t reparations.

Megan Rapinoe: Bills to ban transgender kids from sports try to solve a problem that doesn’t exist