The law constricts mail-in voting. It drastically slashes the amount of time voters have to request and return absentee ballots. Voters will have to provide ID numbers as they fill them out, a new requirement that will confound some people. The law bars counties from distributing absentee ballot applications unless voters specifically request them, and third-party groups face punishment for sending applications to voters who already requested them. And it curbs mail-in ballot drop boxes so as to make them practically useless.
Georgia Republicans expanded absentee voting before 2020, and the state has been one of many showing that mail-in balloting is safe and reliable. But after Democrats embraced it in last year’s vote, Republicans suddenly decided to restrict it.
The law also requires election officials to trash provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct, even in statewide races, a gratuitous punishment for accidentally showing up to the wrong polling place. It bans the mobile voting buses that Atlanta’s Fulton County used in the last election to ease lines at polling places. And the law cuts in half the time for Georgia to conduct runoff elections, which threatens to end weekend early voting in the lead-up to runoff votes. This appears to be a direct response to two Democrats’ surprising victory in January’s Senate runoffs.
In other words, the law targets methods of voting that Democrats favored last year. It stinks of bad faith. It is not, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pointed out, the most restrictionist of measures being considered in Republican-governed states. But it is emblematic of the Republican Party’s nationwide campaign to curb voting following former president Donald Trump’s campaign of lies about election fraud in 2020.
It takes no great power of analysis to understand the anti-democratic motives behind Republicans’ late fervor to restrict voting. One need only listen to what Republicans themselves say. The Mississippi Free Press this week dredged up a March interview with Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson (R), in which he criticized easing voter registration: “Think about all those woke college and university students now who will automatically be registered to vote,” Mr. Watson said. “You’ve got an uninformed citizen who may not be prepared and ready to vote. Automatically, it’s forced on them: ‘Hey, go make a choice.’ And our country’s going to pay for those choices.”
A party confident in its policies would attempt to win new voters to its side. Republicans in many states, including Georgia, have adopted a different strategy: Make it harder to vote. No, that is not a full return to Jim Crow. But it shows a toxic hostility to democracy that no Republican can take pride in.