The Proof of Bad Faith in Georgia
For anyone not paying close attention to the furor over Georgia's election laws, Republican leaders are offering benign sound bites that are almost believable.
Gov. Brian Kemp will explain how the new law provides additional days for early voting, provisions to prevent long waiting lines and extra ballot drop boxes in certain counties. He will defend the new voter ID requirements, which aren't quite as stringent as those in some states that demand photo ID, and skim over the weird criminal prohibition against giving food or water to any voter waiting in line.
Kemp might even say, as many Republicans now insist, that restrictions on ballot access have actually spurred increases in minority voting, supposedly proving that was their intention in the first place. And while it's true that minority voting went up markedly in recent elections, that was more likely despite restrictions on access, not because of them. Enough Americans protested the Georgia process to push back the very worst and most racially discriminatory clauses, such as the attempts to curtail Sunday voting and ban no-excuse absentee voting.
What advocates of the Georgia law are most likely to omit from their happy descriptions is its most sinister aspect: Under the new law, the Republican-controlled Georgia legislature will choose the chair of the State Election Board, ousting the secretary of state, who has chaired the board until now. The newly constituted (and putatively "nonpartisan") board will also have superseding authority over local county election boards, including the power to suspend county election supervisors. In other words, the partisan state legislators can seize control over any election that doesn't turn out as they prefer.
Now, you may recall that the current Georgia secretary of state is a Republican named Brad Raffensperger, who earned a measure of renown for resisting the massive outpouring of lies from former President Trump's campaign about fraud in the 2020 election, specifically in The Peach State. Raffensperger not only refuted the fraudulent claims of voter fraud but also stated that last year's presidential race was among the cleanest and most efficient in state history.
Raffensperger's unshakable stand for truth is why Georgia's Republican legislators have removed him as the elected overseer of state elections. Not only did they desire revenge on him for excessive integrity but they also wanted to ensure nothing like that ever happens again. So they have seized the power to overturn close Democratic victories like the presidential race and the two Senate races that changed the nation's direction last fall.
You may also recall that, as president, Trump and his various legal, political and media minions sought to encourage legislators in various states won by Joe Biden to carry out precisely this kind of authoritarian scheme. It is blatantly unconstitutional and, in most places, completely illegal -- but Kemp and the Republican legislators have now written it into Georgia law.
And you may remember, too, how Raffensperger became the target of his own party's ire after Trump pressured him over the results of the 2020 election -- a sleazy series of actions currently under criminal investigation. The provision neutering Raffensperger's office is clearly a punishment, ensuring that partisan state lawmakers directly control the election process. While the secretary of state himself actually endorsed many provisions of the new law, he politely admits that replacing him with a mechanism easily manipulated by the legislature is a troubling instance of "retribution."
But it's even worse than that. By seeking vengeance against a public official whose only offense was doing his job honestly -- at risk to his livelihood and even his life -- those Republicans proved their ill intent. And while we are all watching Georgia closely, Republican legislators are mounting similar and even worse assaults on democracy across the country, from Arizona and Texas to Kansas and Michigan.
With their popularity plummeting and even their corporate allies appalled by these dictatorial maneuvers, Republicans are desperate. And in their desperation, they are canceling the Constitution they swore to uphold.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.