SOME OBSERVATIONS ABOUT VOTING RIGHTS IN AMERICA

voting

As you surely have read, a buzzing beehive of queens is all het up about the new voting rules law enacted in Georgia. The law has several provisions that alter in part — sometimes a small part, sometimes quite major — how elections in Georgia are to be conducted.

Immediately the law was signed — even before — it was being assailed as “worse than Jim Crow.” It is no such thing ! Have we really forgotten what Jim Crow was actually like ?

But is the new law a significant impediment to Black voters registering and voting ? Not that I can tell. It may in fact INCREASE Black voter turnout.

I have read two ( 2 ) major-media articles in which the law’s changes are serially analyzed. Some of the provisions actually make voting easier; some make it harder. the net effect is not much. Let us read them :

First, Stephen Fowler’s article here : https://www.gpb.org/news/2021/03/27/what-does-georgias-new-voting-law-sb-202-do

Next, the New York Times’s analysis : https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/03/upshot/georgia-election-law-turnout.html?smtyp=cur&smid=tw-nytimes

The Times’s report, authored by election analyst Nate Cohn, suggests that the Georgia law’s tweaks are essentially much ado about nothing. I agree. Under our Constitution, States operate their own elections, subject only to the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. Nothing in the new Georgia law crosses those guarantees.

The law is basically administrative. It alters procedural rules : expands early voting (a device which I don’t like at all, because risks the early voter missing important candidate information revealed after he votes early), changes voting hours, substitutes voter ID for signature on ballots, and limits the number of ballot drop boxes — albeit making them a formal part of the Georgia process rather than a temporary emergency measure. The law also makes it harder for voters waiting in line to receive a beverage, but the new provisions mirror those in other States (including Massachusetts); however, the law also expands voting locations, so as to minimize the length of voting lines.

The Georgia law does do one very troubling thing: it takes election administration away from the Secretary of State — Brad Raffensperger, whom Mr. Trump tried hard to pressure, and giving it instead to a state elections board controlled by the legislature. (Raffensperger is still a board member but without a vote on it.) This is surely a revenge move by Republicans angry that Raffensperger chose integrity over Trump.

I see no way to gloss this over. It taints the entire law and marks its passage as suspect, thus opening the door to the altogether more unfounded objections by Democratic activists.

Why did the Georgia legislature not leave well enough alone ? I’ll let you speculate an answer. I’ve heard several versions. In any case, the State has now achieved the highly unlikely : its elections system was attacked by Democrat Stacey Abrams in 2018, by Mr. Trump last year, and now by activist Democrats in 2021. Bipartisan consensus !!

that’s quite the trifecta.

Governor Brian Kemp stands in the middle of it all, everybody’s pinned donkey tail. More : his US Senate pick, Kelly Loeffler, was soundly defeated on January 5th by now Senator Ralph Warnock. Is Kemp really that politically stub-toed ? Maybe so. In any case, he now faces an angry Donald Trump AND an even angrier Doug Collins — a former Congressman and Trump favorite whom Kemp passed over for the Senate appointment that Loeffler got — and of course Ms Abrams and now the entire nation’s Democratic wokes. Can Kemp win re-election ? Can he even win a Republican primary ? We will soon know the answer.

But enough of Governor Kemp. The big question is the voting rights situation generally. Set aside the Democrats’ big Federal elections bill, H R 1, of which I wrote in a previous column and whose provisions, overreaching unConstitutionally, cannot pass. I am here thinking of the many States — including Massachusetts — which, setting their own election rules as the Constitution assures them power to do, operate elections under rules stricter than the new Georgia rules and/or which no one seems to complain of. Why not ? Answer : because those States are never in play in a national election. They are either safely Democratic or securely Republican. Thus no one complains when their election rules, no matter how flawed, administer an unsurprising win.

Georgia is different . it was, until last year, a safe republican win in national elections. Republican activists are angry that that safety is now unsafe, just as Democrats are angry that their new Georgia-win accomplishments may be turned back by the State tweaking its rules.

The Georgia brouhaha is not about the election rules per se, its about PARTISAN zero-sum : if you win, I lose; if I win, you lose. Nor is the noise about Black voters per se. If Black voters voted 95 percent Republican, Republicans would be celebrating their turnout surge. The fuss is NOT AT ALL about racial animus. It is about PARTISAN advantage, that and nothing but that.

Myself, I do not like early voting. Not because it favors Democrats, which it needn’t, but because it deprives the early voter of candidate information which may befall after he votes. I don’t like voting by mail either. I want voters to appear personally at the poll on election day appointed. Absentee voting, yes, but limited only to those who CANNOT personally appear at the poll. Voting should require voter effort. Americans fought and died to sure us voting rights. the least we can do in return is to exert ourselves to register and again to vote.

I stand by the above principles.

Election rules are hardly the only field on which today’s partisan hatreds bump and bruise. But election rules are sensitive to those who value our Constitutional republic AND the basic political principle of equilibrium upon which our Constitution’s success rests. The partisan activists of this era seek to up-end that equilibrium. They know not the consequences of their rash radicalism, nor do they care. It is THEY who scare me, a lot more than i am alarmed by election law tweaks, even significant ones.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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