On the Georgia Voting Wrongs Act

Less than 24 hours after Georgia enacted a new voting law, President Joe Biden castigated it – and rightly so. He noted that it “makes it a crime to provide water to voters while they wait in line – lines Republican officials themselves have created by reducing the number of polling sites across the state, disproportionately in Black neighborhoods” – which it does.

Biden claimed the law “adds rigid restrictions on casting absentee ballots that will effectively deny the right to vote to countless voters” – which is an amalgamation of fact and educated conjecture. He asserted that the act “ends voting hours early so working people can’t cast their vote after their shift is over” – which the law actually does not do. Republicans have gleefully used that error to assert that the law is just fine.

When one looks at the actual law itself, one finds that Biden – despite his factual error – is much closer to the truth than the Republicans are.

The first set of problems with the law (hereafter the Georgia Voting Wrongs Act or GVWA) involve the casting of absentee ballots. As noted by the New York Times (they cite and show the Act’s text), the time to apply for an absentee ballot is reduced by more than half – and election officials are no longer allowed to mail applications to voters unless they ask for one. The latter is countered by a requirement that online application be available. The former is utterly pointless – except for making it harder to vote.

There are also provisions for effectively replacing ballot signatures with data requirements that, if missed, could lead to ballots getting tossed out. These are the “voter ID” requirements that Republicans are touting. To be clear, the requirements themselves are hardly onerous (indeed, Virginia uses similar ones for online absentee applications) – so long as it is relatively easy for Georgians to get driver’s licenses or state IDs, something that is far from certain depending upon the state in question.

As for early voting, access is improved for rural counties, but not much for urban and suburban ones. If anything, pre-Election Day voting may be harder in urban and suburban counties due to drop box reductions. Biden’s voting-hours error likely comes from the codification of early voting minimum hours of 9AM to 5PM, but they are minimums. The maximums are 7AM to 7PM.

The no-water provision is indeed written into the law.

I would argue, however, that the greatest problem with the GVWA comes from provisions that don’t involve casting ballots, but rather counting them. Control of statewide elections – and the power to seize control of local elections – are in the hands of a State Election Board with a partisan Republican majority built in (five members, two of which are chosen by the GOP-controlled legislature and one by the party itself).

This would enable the Georgia GOP to take control of up to four local election systems for a period of nine months. That’s more than enough time to slow-roll, or even stop, election certification in Democratic counties – thus enabling the legislature itself to choose presidential electors in 2024 – or even appoint new election chiefs to find Trump or other Republicans the mythical vote fraud they need as cover to steal elections.

Before you insist that last part is hyperbole, remember that this was the state where Trump tried to browbeat election officials into tilting the scales for him (WaPo), and he is still claiming the election was stolen from him.

Americans should be deeply disturbed by what the Georgia legislature has done: it has, in effect, given itself the power to reverse the will of the voters however it sees fit.

This is why the GVWA should not have been passed and should be repealed.

This is why Major League Baseball pulled the All Star Game.

This is why no one should rest easy until the Republicans cease trying to overturn elections they lose. American democracy literally hangs in the balance.

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