First, the good news. Following an election in which Georgia voters preferred Democrats for president and U.S. Senate, state Republicans appeared to be on the verge of severely crimping the vote, rolling back reform after reform that Republicans themselves had previously championed to ease access to the ballot box. One plan would have ended no-excuse absentee voting, after an election in which 1.3 million Georgians used mail-in ballots. Another would have eliminated automatic voter registration, meaning people would have had to proactively register themselves to vote rather than allow the state to automatically register them when they visited the Department of Driver Services. Yet another would have cut Sunday voting, which would have been a particularly noxious attack on “Souls to the Polls” events, in which many Black voters cast ballots following Sunday services.
All of these proposals now appear to be dead, and statehouse Republicans may even expand weekend voting options. Those Republicans who fought back, including Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who refused to preside over the state Senate debate on one of the bills, deserve credit. Credit also goes to Georgia-based businesses that balked, such as Coca-Cola and Home Depot.
But Georgia Republicans are still fashioning other restrictions. One proposal making its way through the legislature would require election officials to trash provisional ballots that voters accidentally cast outside their home precincts, even for races that are on every ballot in every precinct in the state. This mirrors efforts in other states, such as Arizona, to crack down needlessly on voters who make such mistakes. Georgia also may place so many restrictions on ballot drop boxes as to render them practically useless, add new voter ID requirements for absentee ballots and shorten substantially the deadline for voters to request mail-in ballots.
Perhaps worse is Mr. Trump’s continued interference in Georgia voting, an obsession he developed after November’s election, in which he lost the state. His attacks on Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) for failing to detect any substantial fraud culminated in a threatening phone call to the secretary of state, after which Mr. Raffensperger still refused to advance the lie that the 2020 results were suspect. So Mr. Trump on Monday endorsed a far-right challenger to Mr. Raffensperger in the coming 2022 election. In contrast to Mr. Raffensperger, the challenger, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice (R), led efforts to overturn last year’s free and fair election result.
Voters considering the principled record of Mr. Raffensperger, contrasting with the anti-democratic efforts of many state lawmakers and officials across the country this year, face a consequential decision point. Will the GOP continue to seek victories by suppressing the vote, or will it embrace candidates and policies that are more appealing to more people?