The GOP may have lost the White House and the Senate, but it remains strong in most state capitols. So far this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, Republicans in 33 states “have introduced, prefiled, or carried over 165 bills to restrict voting access.” The thrust of virtually all these measures is to make it more difficult for African Americans and other minorities to vote.
These efforts at disenfranchisement are more numerous, and more discriminatory, in several of the swing states President Biden carried narrowly: Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia. That should come as no surprise. GOP officials who had the temerity to follow the law and count the November vote honestly, such as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, have been all but excommunicated by their state Republican Party organizations.
In Georgia — where not only did Donald Trump lose to Biden by 11,779 votes, but also two incumbent GOP senators were defeated by Democratic challengers — Republicans are using their control of the statehouse to try to eliminate all early voting on Sundays. That would put an end to “Souls to the Polls,” a popular Sunday get-out-the-vote initiative in which Black churches help parishioners get to polling places and cast their ballots.
“Souls to the Polls” eliminates barriers to voting that thousands of Black Georgians otherwise might face, such as transportation for the elderly or finding time during the workweek for others. Georgia Republicans want to put those barriers back up — and raise them even higher.
Other proposals being pushed by Georgia GOP state legislators include getting rid of no-excuse absentee voting, which has been allowed for decades; eliminating the use of convenient drop boxes for casting absentee votes; and abolishing automatic voter registration at the Department of Driver Services offices where Georgians go to renew their driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations.
Trump’s wild and false claims of election fraud aren’t the only things driving these efforts; Republican efforts to restrict voting are hardly new. Republican officials in Georgia know the state’s electorate at a granular level and are capable of performing basic addition and subtraction. They see how the populous suburbs around Atlanta, once GOP strongholds, have been steadily trending Democratic. They may not be able to halt that process. But perhaps they can compensate by suppressing the African American vote in economically disadvantaged areas of Atlanta proper; in the wide “Black Belt” stretching southwest across the state, roughly from Augusta to Columbus; and in the heavily African American area around Savannah.
In strongly Hispanic Arizona, which Biden won by 10,457 votes and where the Brennan Center tallies 19 voter-suppression bills filed since the election, the state Senate has rejected — for now — a Republican measure that would have stricken roughly 200,000 names from a list of voters who automatically receive mail-in ballots. That courtesy is considered the primary reason most Arizonans cast their votes by mail.
But another still-pending measure would require early ballots to be hand-delivered to a polling place rather than returned by mail, negating the benefits of mail voting. And another proposed bill would simply disregard the will of the voters altogether, allowing the GOP-controlled state legislature to appoint its own slate of presidential electors. Democracy, after all, can be so inconvenient.
Elsewhere across the country, Republican legislators are trying to tighten voter-identification laws that are already too restrictive. And they are trying to find ways to disqualify more mail-in ballots — perhaps for future occasions when GOP candidates need to “find” enough favorable votes, or lose enough adverse ones, to deny victory to a Democrat.
It amounts to an outrageous and shameful attempt to establish and perpetuate minority rule in a nation in which the Republican candidate for president has won the popular vote only once in the past eight elections.
At the state level, Democrats must fight these efforts relentlessly. And at the federal level, they should use any means necessary — including eliminating or suspending the Senate filibuster — to pass H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” which would invalidate much of the most anti-democratic legislation the GOP is trying to enact.
And voters of color must resolve not to be deterred. This is not a “Whites only” democracy. Not anymore.