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Criticism of Georgia voting law well deserved

The law passed in Georgia to place greater restrictions on voting, ostensibly to restore “public confidence” in the system, is an extension of the false claims that Democratic victories for the presidency and the Georgia Senate seats were attributable to voting fraud.

In truth President Joe Biden won an upset victory in Georgia and Democrats won both Senate seats there the old-fashioned way — they got more votes. Key to those victories was overwhelming turnout and support for Democrats among Georgia’s Black voters. The primary goal of the changes in Georgia voting law is to suppress that Black vote in future elections. That is what is going on.

But Republicans can’t admit to that, so they return to the bogus claims that the system has to be fixed.

Some corporations, however, have recognized that messing around with democracy is not a good thing. It is destabilizing and unpredictable, things corporations do not like. They want the power to lobby lawmakers and influence the process by way of campaign donations, but they don’t want it to become standard operating procedure for election losers to refuse to accept the results or try to rig future voting for their benefits.

It wouldn’t be good for business.

So, a group of corporations have effectively said, “Stop it, now.”

Delta Air Lines Inc., Coca-Cola Co., United Parcel Service Inc., Home Depot Inc., Microsoft Corp., Bank of America Corp., Apple Inc., Merck & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co., along with about 80 Black business executives, have condemned the effort in Georgia to restrict voting rights.

Republican leaders, most prominently Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, have warned the corporations to keep their nose out of politics. But since when has that ever happened? Republicans seem to have no problem with corporations throwing their weight around for lower taxes and less regulation. And don't expect Republicans to return any corporate campaign contributions.

Major League Baseball took things a step further, announcing it was shifting the location of the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver to protest Georgia's new voting restrictions.

Now, one could argue whether that was the right move. Atlanta is a diverse city which voted overwhelmingly Democrat. Its businesses, many of them Black businesses, and the people they employ may take the hardest hit from all that All-Star money  going to Denver, a predominately white city.

But if the point was to make a loud statement, that was achieved.

MLB, in that statement, said it seeks “fair access to voting” and "fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box."

Under the new Georgia law, the earliest voters can request a mail-in ballot will be 11 weeks before an election instead of 180 days, less than half as much time. Get out-the-vote efforts in Black communities in Georgia had focused on getting ballots in the hands of voters early.

Identification rules for these ballots were also tightened. Some might argue, what is wrong with that? What is wrong is that there was no evidence that the existing ID rules led to fraudulent voting. Black voters in urban areas who don’t have motor vehicle licenses will face the greater challenge meeting the new rules and fewer will vote as a result. That’s the political calculation.

There will also be fewer drop boxes for ballots and the hours they are available will be restricted. Yet another move to suppress the vote.

Then there is the rule against providing food and drink to voters waiting in long lines.

Most ominous, the secretary of state will no longer chair the State Election Board, becoming a powerless non-voting, ex-officio member. In the 2020 election, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger stoop up to pressure from President Trump and some Georgia officials who urged him to cook up a way to toss out the Biden victory.

The new chair will be appointed by a majority of the Republican state House and Senate.

Further, the Election Board's new powers give it — and by extension, the legislature — more power to intervene in county elections that are deemed “underperforming.” It is not hard to imagine where that could lead. 

But, some Republicans note, there are predominantly Democratic states with more restrictive voting rules, including Connecticut. Those need to be fixed, too. It is why we have pushed for constitutional amendments to allow early voting in the state and no-excuse absentee balloting.

Unlike Georgia Republicans, Connecticut should embrace efforts to expand the vote.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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