Because of its new election law, Georgia is on everyone’s mind. Nearly 200 companies joined in a statement on Friday against voting restrictions in Georgia and other states, hometown icons Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines have condemned the Georgia bill, and Major League Baseball announced on Friday that it is moving this summer’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest.
This, in turn, has led to a hysterical GOP backlash against “woke corporate hypocrites.” The very lawmakers who regularly fulminate against “cancel culture” now want to cancel MLB’s antitrust exemption. Fox News’s Laura Ingraham is threatening to “punish” companies that protest the Georgia law. National Review’s website features at least 20 different articles devoted to this dispute.
Move over, Dr. Seuss. The right has found a new front in its never-ending culture war.
As in any war, truth is the first casualty in this conflict. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) claims that criticism of the legislation is misplaced because it actually “expands” voting access. It’s true that the act does contain some provisions that expand access primarily in rural, heavily Republican areas. But a meticulous New York Times examination found that these provisions are far outweighed by 16 measures that restrict voting access — especially in urban areas where minority voters are concentrated.
In the core of metropolitan Atlanta, the number of drop boxes for absentee ballots will be reduced from 94 to no more than 23. The amount of time to request an absentee ballot before an election will be cut from 180 days to 78. Provisional ballots cast by voters who mistakenly go to the wrong polling place may no longer be counted. Election officials will be banned from sending absentee ballots to all voters. Mobile voting centers will essentially be discontinued. New ID requirements will be instituted. Outside groups will be prohibited from offering food or water to voters waiting in long lines even on hot and humid days. (Long lines are one of the leading reasons cited for not voting.)
Some of the act’s most worrisome provisions give the Republican-controlled legislature more control over disputed results. The legislature can now suspend county election officials. Replacements will be named by the State Election Board — whose chair will now be appointed by the legislature. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had previously chaired the board. But he angered Trump by resisting entreaties to overturn the election results, so now the secretary of state has been booted off the election board altogether.
President Biden may have exaggerated in describing this as “Jim Crow in the 21st century.” It’s not as egregious as restrictions on voting during the segregation era (but that’s not saying much). He was definitely wrong to claim that the law ends voting at 5 p.m.; polls will still be open until 7 p.m. And it’s true, as Kemp argues, that some blue states have restrictive voting laws of their own. Georgia, for example, offers a minimum of 17 days of early voting compared with nine in New York.
But New York isn’t moving to restrict voting. Georgia is. Why is that? Republicans can’t answer that basic question with a straight face because an honest response would expose their authoritarianism and racism.
The law’s ostensible justification is to combat voter fraud — except there isn’t any significant fraud. Trump is still claiming the election was “rigged,” but he has never produced one iota of credible evidence. Republicans filed more than 60 lawsuits challenging the election results that failed. A recent analysis from the Mitre Corp., a nonpartisan research organization, found “no evidence of fraud, manipulation, or uncorrected error” in eight battleground states, including Georgia.
The Georgia law was obviously passed not to crack down on nonexistent voter fraud but to make it harder for Democrats to win elections by making it more difficult for their supporters to vote. Some on the right even admit as much. With admirable (if chilling) honesty, National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy defends the law by writing: “It would be far better if the franchise were not exercised by ignorant, civics-illiterate people, hypnotized by the flimflam that a great nation needs to be fundamentally transformed rather than competently governed.”
It goes without saying that the “ignorant … people” that McCarthy wants to disenfranchise are not Republicans like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), who claims that Jewish-controlled space lasers are setting wildfires and that vigorous exercise can protect you against covid-19. He is obviously talking about people of color and progressives who believe that a country with a long history of racism and discrimination needs to be “fundamentally transformed.” That the Georgia legislature just passed a law restricting voting rights only shows how urgent that transformation remains.