Tag Archives: Elections Clause

Caw! Caw! Jim Crow Returns to Georgia

Acting on the pretext that there is legitimate and widespread lack of public confidence in Georgia election processes, Governor Kemp, behind closed doors guarded by state police, signed a new law restricting voting in Georgia. The bill, 95-pages in length, was introduced in the Georgia Senate on February 17, passed on March 8, read in the House the next day, passed by the House on March 25 and that same day sent to the Senate, passed by the Senate that same day and sent to the Governor who signed it that same day. https://bit.ly/3lVoudr

When engaged in world-class voter suppression, the Georgia government can move faster than a scalded cat. Georgia joins a mob, the current Republican favorite form of action, of 43 states and more than 250 blatant vote suppression bills.

The only significant lack of confidence in state election laws comes from the Republicans’ whining, led by Donald Trump, starting well before the 2020 election, that the election was going to be rigged, if, and only if, Trump lost. If he had won, well then, no problems – voting systems working just fine. The intellectual and moral vacuity of the Republican reasoning behind this idea needs no elaboration. Nevertheless, ….

The sole reasons now given for the “voter fraud” claim are that “many people believe there was fraud.” That, need I point out, is no reason to believe anything. Large shares of the population believe that the Earth has been visited by aliens from other planets/galaxies and large shares of millennials are not sure the Earth is a spheroid shape (yes, they appear to be somewhat convinced that Earth is or may be flat). Remarkable, but that’s what the surveys show. It is what it is. I am not going to touch, beyond this sentence, on the belief of millions that the Earth, in fact, was formed out of the void in seven days.

That many people believe something is not is a justification for any rational person to believe in those ideas. You can believe them, of course; no one will lock you up for those beliefs (you may want to keep them to yourself in job interviews, though; just saying). But just because many people believe something is no reason for everyone else to believe it. Nor is it reason to legislate restrictions on behaviors and processes that are central to the function of our democracy. Unless, of course, your real motive is to undermine democratic processes and thereby ensure that your party, and people who think just like you, remain in power. That, friends, is not democracy; it’s fascism, communism and other similar forms of authoritarianism.

One tip-off to what’s really going on is that the Governor of Georgia has developed vertical pupils in his eyes. New studies confirm that “Vertical-slit pupils are most common among nocturnal predators that ambush their prey.” Science Advances, August 2015. They are also typically associated with poisonous reptiles.

While you’re recoiling at the thought of that, though you recognize it as satire, remember that the Republicans who are advancing this legislation in their states have already tried and failed more than 60 times to persuade courts that they had evidence of election fraud. Even Trump’s own Attorney General, and part-time Trump personal counsel, said there was no evidence of fraud that would have affected the outcome of the election. Even Mitch McConnell, whose relationship with truth is, well, tenuous at best, said Trump lost the election.

So, what to do, what to do? If you’re in the leadership of a Republican-majority state, you fix things (“rig” is, I believe, the correct verb here) so that Republicans don’t lose any more elections. How do you do that? Look no further than Georgia’s SB202.

As reported in the Washington Post, https://wapo.st/2QIONbe,

The new law imposes new identification requirements for those casting ballots by mail; curtails the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots; allows electors to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters and requires counties to hold hearings on such challenges within 10 days; makes it a crime for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters standing in line; blocks the use of mobile voting vans, as Fulton County did last year after purchasing two vehicles at a cost of more than $700,000; and prevents local governments from directly accepting grants from the private sector.

The vertical pupil infection has spread throughout the Republican side of the Georgia legislature.

The 95-page law also strips authority from the secretary of state, making him a nonvoting member of the State Election Board, and allows lawmakers to initiate takeovers of local election boards — measures that critics said could allow partisan appointees to slow down or block election certification or target heavily Democratic jurisdictions, many of which are in the Atlanta area and are home to the state’s highest concentrations of Black and Brown voters.

Those steps, according to Governor Kemp’s reasoning , “will take another step toward ensuring our elections are secure, accessible and fair. … the facts are that this new law will expand voting access in the Peach State” and expanded early voting on weekends in every Georgia county.

This legislation was essential, according to Kemp, because of the “many alarming issues” in how the 2020 election was handled, leading to a “crisis in confidence.” Blathering on, in the model favored by Trump himself, Kemp gave himself credit for aggressive investigations of the election frauds, saying that the investigation he directed “got to the bottom of each and every allegation of fraud.”

OK, but then what? Turns out, there were no findings of fraud. Kemp’s own aggressive investigations found no fraud. Kemp then proceeds to simply ignore that reality while claiming that immediate legislative action was essential to fix the fraud problems.

One of the most notable provisions of the Georgia legislation adds to the ability of one voter to challenge the qualifications of another voter. The prior law provided for an elaborate process, including subpoenas and a hearing. The challenger had the burden of proof at the hearing and a right of appeal was provided to both parties to the dispute. The principal change was to add this:

There shall not be a limit on the number of persons whose qualifications  such elector may challenge.

That means that one voter can now challenge thousands of ballots cast by voters of the opposing party. Thus, one Republican voter working with the party in power can undermine the voting process and compel hearings, appeals and other steps that will lead many, if not most, challenged voters to simply give up. And that, I suggest, is the entire idea behind this change in the election law. It is voter suppression in the guise of “cleaning up” issues that never existed in the first place.

The Governor chose to sign the “historic legislation” behind closed doors, guarded by state police and in the presence of six white male legislators. This decision was not accepted by Black Democratic state Rep. Park Cannon who, after knocking on the Governor’s chamber door after being told, apparently, not to knock, was arrested by state troopers.  See  https://bit.ly/3dagtx7 for a disturbing but accurate connection of Georgia’s decision and the history of suppression in the origin story of America.

It comes down to this: some Georgians, though not a majority of Georgia voters, were unhappy with the outcome of the 2020 election. The state went for Biden and for two Democratic Senators in runoff elections. Extensive, repetitive investigations were conducted with the full resources of the Georgia state government to uncover fraud that could have overturned the election results. No such evidence was found. Nevertheless, the Republican-dominated legislature says it had to act. It’s true they withdrew controversial and widely condemned provisions that were aimed squarely at suppressing Sunday voting by Black-majority districts, but that did not stop them from, for example, criminalizing the act of giving snacks or water to people forced to stand in long lines at the polls. Anyone with a reasonably open mind can see what’s coming.

There can be little doubt that Georgia, along with the other Republican-dominated states, is employing an explicit voter suppression strategy to prevent Democrats from challenging their power in the future. Lawsuits have already been filed to overturn these blatant anti-democratic acts.

But we don’t have to wait for the protracted court battles that will ensue. Article I, Section 4, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution states:

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

As stated by Justice Ginsburg in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, 576 U.S. __ (2015):

There can be no dispute that Congress itself may draw a State’s congressional-district boundaries.

There is little doubt that the Congress is also authorized by the Fourteenth Amendment, among other provisions, to stop state voter suppression legislation in its tracks if it has the will to do so. This power is analyzed in detail in a Congressional Research Service report at https://bit.ly/31s6j5H

Democrats have the power. Use it. It’s time for the United States to choose between democracy and authoritarianism, whatever its technical form. End Jim Crow … again.

Note: if you are unfamiliar with the Congressional Research Service, see this https://bit.ly/3rqyOuT