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Friday, April 16, 2021

Georgia On Our Minds

Quick reaction and a rush to judgement by corporations such as Coca Cola and Delta Airlines now includes the formal decision by Major League Baseball to remove the 2021All-Star game this summer from Atlanta.

Larry Greenfield is a Fellow of The Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship & Political Philosophy.

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Larry Greenfield
Larry Greenfield is a Fellow of The Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship & Political Philosophy.

60 years ago, Ray Charles hit #1 on the Billboard Top 100 with a tune that became the official state song of Georgia.

Today, moral panic, virtue signaling, and political demagoguery are all peaking as well in the outlandish political and corporate response to the new Georgia state election law (SB 202) passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Brian Kemp on March 25, 2021.

Reactions have included lawsuits from civil rights groups, and a stunning declaration from President Biden that the Georgia Election Integrity Act is an “atrocity,” “sick,” “un-American,” and “Jim Crow in the 21st Century.”

Quick reaction and a rush to judgement by corporations such as Coca Cola and Delta Airlines now includes the formal decision by Major League Baseball to remove the 2021All-Star game this summer from Atlanta.

The New York Times ran a long article with its analysis here while the Washington Post gave Mr. Biden four Pinocchios for spreading his upset with the law without apparently consulting election law experts.

Georgia recently became the center of the political universe during the controversial November 3, 2020 Presidential election and again during the unusual two U.S. Senate run-off elections held on January 5, 2021. Though the law clarifies issues brought to the fore during this cycle, it actually is the product of a longer period of study meant to modernize state election law.

Playing up Georgia’s sensible reforms as racist feeds a highly partisan agenda on Capitol Hill and helps the media to continue to push for the federalizing of state election laws, which is likely unconstitutional and is the real controversy requiring serious scrutiny.

Let’s clarify seven major misconceptions and half-truths about the new bill, which opponents are using to try to rally support for a massive takeover of state election systems via the proposed federal HR.1 in Congress.

The Georgia election law does not discourage voting or suppress votes

The bill actually expands ballot access by requiring large voting precincts with lines more than an hour long to add voting machines and election personnel to reduce wait times. It does not reduce the number of total early voting days; it actually increases the mandatory days of early weekend voting.

Compared to 2020, 134 counties will now offer additional early voting hours in future elections. Election drop boxes are now required. Voters may vote by absentee ballot without any required excuse, (unlike Mr. Biden’s Delaware, or New York, which require an excuse to vote by absentee ballot).

The Georgia election does not eliminate voting on Sunday to suppress African-American votes

Georgia law did not reference Sunday early voting days until the new SB 202, and in 2020, only 16 of 159 counties offered early voting on Sundays. The new law clearly allows for the option of holding early voting on two Sundays for all localities. It increases the mandatory days of early weekend voting across the state.

The Georgia election law does not suppress the vote by requiring voter identification 

The law requires a driver’s license or free state ID number, which 97% of registered voters already have. Any person without a valid ID can easily obtain one for free. The voter ID requirement replaces the state’s much disliked signature match program that led to the disqualification of thousands of votes in 2020.

The law’s voter ID requirement for absentee ballots is overwhelmingly popular in Georgia among all ethnic groups and social classes.

The Georgia election law does not eliminate drop boxes for absentee voting

Prior to 2020, drop boxes did not exist. They were added due to the Covid-19 pandemic and now will become an official part of Georgia elections, available in all 159 counties under supervision to avoid tampering.

The Georgia election law does not allow partisan actors to throw out county votes

The state’s bipartisan State Election Board may do performance reviews of local election supervisor competency if they fail county voters (i.e. long lines or unfulfilled absentee ballot requests). The board may not overturn election results. Instead, the board may suspend election supervisors who improperly seek to influence election outcomes.

The Georgia election law does not ban drinking water for voters while waiting in line

Many states have very specific electioneering laws at polling places to reduce partisan political groups from handing out food and drinks as an incentive to vote. Poll workers may make water available to anyone who wants it.

The Georgia election law does not mandate voting from 9 AM to 5 PM

The law specifically allows counties to extend voting from 7 AM to 7 PM, and to allow for Saturday and Sunday voting.

Playing up Georgia’s sensible reforms as racist feeds a highly partisan agenda on Capitol Hill and helps the media to continue to push for the federalizing of state election laws, which is likely unconstitutional and is the real controversy requiring serious scrutiny.


Larry Greenfield is a Fellow of The Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship & Political Philosophy.

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