I have lived in Georgia since 1992, and I had no idea how popular we are. I’m sure everyone is aware by now that we have some new voting laws in Georgia. This “conversation” is a great example of everything wrong with our political discourse today. Let me state up front, that I have no position on this bill either way. For me, the larger issue is our level of discourse.
I Googled “what is in the GA election bill” and the first response that showed up was from a group called the Brennan Center for Justice. It referred to the bill as an election suppression bill and went on and on about how horrible the bill was, yet did not make one mention of anything in the bill.
Next up: CNN, which referred to it as imposing “new voting restrictions,” claiming multiple times that this is all about the 2020 election and the fact that Joe Biden won in GA. They did at least quote some supporters of the bill, although they did so in such a way as to make them seem disingenuous. Big bonus if one actually read through the repetitious accusations of voter suppression – CNN did finally mention two elements of the actual bill in the last paragraph.
This article was followed by several more from news outlets like The New York Times, whose headline is, “Georgia GOP Passes Major Law to Limit Voting.” I’ll admit to not even reading that article. All the while, CNBC is interviewing CEOs of big corporations who were all damning Georgia for its horrible new law – once again doing so without any specific discussion about provisions in the bill that make it so horrible.
Three altered Google searches later, I finally found the actual bill. According to the bill itself, this is not just about the 2020 election in Georgia, but also the 2018 election. Some who are politically minded may be aware that Stacey Abrams, who ran for governor in 2018 and lost, has been touring the country ever since claiming that she is the rightful governor of Georgia and the 2018 election was fraudulently stolen. Does that claim sound familiar?
The 2020 election was the second in a row in Georgia in which one side claimed the election was not fair. It seems reasonable that something should be done about that. The bill goes on to give the State more oversight authority over the localities that actually run elections. I can see where that could be a problem, but it does seem reasonable to me that one should have some higher authority for recourse if she believes local officials are corrupt.
The bill goes on and on about treating every local jurisdiction equally in terms of funding and resources. That may or may not be wise, but it doesn’t seem evil.
It requires people requesting absentee ballots to give their driver’s license (or state issued ID card) number. We have had to show identification in order to vote in Georgia as long as I have lived here, so I don’t understand this being a big deal, but evidently this is one of the “suppression” tactics. Of course, there is no explanation for why this is some kind of hardship. I frankly can’t think of anything of importance where an ID is not required. That is why we never leave home without it.
The bill provides for absentee ballot drop-off boxes. This is one aspect that was completely misrepresented in every media story I read; there have never been drop-off boxes in Georgia until 2020. They came about in this past election because of pandemic emergency measures. Those measures expired after the election, therefore, under existing Georgia law there would be no drop-off boxes. I know nothing of the wisdom of drop-off boxes, but this is an expansion of access, not a limitation.
The last controversial element, as far as I can tell, is that there is now a requirement to request an absentee ballot at least 11 days before the next election. This comes from a recommendation by the United States Postal Service, which says to ensure ballot integrity and on-time delivery, such requests should be made 15 days in advance. It is unclear why Georgia shaved four days off of the actual USPS recommendation, but it is more unclear to me where the suppression resides in all of this? There has to be some deadline; if not, should all the Republican voters who did not show up in January (because Trump told them Georgia elections are rigged) get to vote now?
I am no expert in election laws, and perhaps this is the worst piece of state legislation ever passed in the 245 year history of our nation. However, if this is the case, why is there zero substance in the rebuttals? Why resort to name-calling and accusations? Why do some mention no actual provisions of the bill at all and others hide them in the last paragraph of articles? Maybe the Devil has come to Georgia looking for a soul to steal and this election reform is his work, I don’t know. I wasted my whole morning researching it and I still don’t know, and that is the problem.
What I do know is that a democracy cannot function for long with this level of discourse. There is no substance. If there is a problem with a bill, then point it out. Reference the actual bill specifically and explain why it is wrong. If we cannot have substantive conversations, then we will not survive. At least that is my perspective.
Chuck Osborne, CFA