Big Lie Morphs Into Voter Suppression Bills
Georgia Republican legislators pushing radical voting “reforms” are not being honest about the real reasons behind their proposals.
For months before the November election, President Trump and his supporters were spouting a constant refrain that the election might be stolen, and that absentee ballots were not secure. This set the stage for disbelief and rejection of the results when it became clear that Trump had lost.
A sizable number of legislators who are serving right now in our General Assembly did not like some of the outcomes of the 2020 elections. After their outsize efforts to overturn the results of the election and keep Donald Trump in office for a second term failed, they are now leading the charge to significantly restrict access to voting in Georgia.
Despite recounts and audits, Republicans across the country filed numerous lawsuits and took up the refrain of Stop the Steal, culminating in the dramatic and scary attempt to stop the legal transfer of power (which is called a coup) on January 6 in the U.S. Capitol. But certain elected Georgia Republicans played a particularly sinister role in the Stop the Steal effort.
During Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff election campaigns, GOP elected officials kept up a steady drumbeat of election fraud and #StopTheSteal talking points. But they engaged in more than just talk. Roughly half of the serving GOP state Senators and 12 state House members joined in a brief supporting a Texas lawsuit challenging the presidential election results in a few swing states, including Georgia. To be clear, these are Georgia elected officials challenging the results of a Georgia election where all of them were either elected or reelected. What would they have done if this lawsuit had been successful? Fortunately for their own electoral success, the suit was summarily tossed by the U.S. Supreme Court without comment.
Also in December, Georgia Senators and Representatives held sham hearings on supposed voter fraud. The Democrats had to come to the capitol with their masks to push back against testimony from the likes of Rudy Guiliani and others spewing unfounded theories of voter fraud.
Then in preparation for the acceptance of the Electoral College vote by Congress, according to Sen. Burt Jones, 16 Georgia Senators signed a letter to Vice President Pence asking him to delay this usually pro-forma acceptance until an investigation of voting results could take place. Jones backed off his plan to present this letter to Pence at a dinner Jones attended at the Pence home the evening of January 5.
Despite these and other actions of Georgia legislators to overturn an election deemed fair and accurate by the Republican Governor and Secretary of State, they have suffered few if any repercussions. An excellent, detailed account of the actions of Georgia elected officials was reported by GPB News and Georgia News Lab.
Not only has no evidence emerged of substantial voter fraud in the November election, there is some evidence that distrust of the voting system kept some citizens from voting in the January runoff for our two U.S. Senate seats which the two Democratic candidates won.
Now, after months of unfounded charges of voter fraud, Stop the Steal hysteria, and possible suppression of runoff turnout, these same elected legislators are down under our Gold Dome attempting to appear as responsible legislators, while at the same time irresponsibly trying to pass laws that will make it harder to vote. Some 70 bills have been introduced and many are hurtling through the legislative process without time for judicious review. Main targets include IDs for mail-in voting, elimination of no-excuse absentee voting, reduction of availability of drop boxes, elimination of automatic voter registration, among many others.
Legislators are saying that they want to make voting more secure, and that their constituents are telling them they want to have more confidence in elections. However, Democratic Senator Sally Harrell points out that legislators are elected to be leaders. “These Republican leaders need to stand up and tell their constituents that the election was fair and not stolen. Just tell the truth,” she suggests.
It is galling that Georgia legislators who actively worked to overthrow an election without evidence of substantial fraud face no sanctions or repercussions. But it is even more concerning that they are now serving in the legislature, acting as if none of this happened, and attempting to drastically cut back on access to voting. Sen. Harrell points out that the only reason we are debating these bills is that their candidate lost. And this is not a good reason to overhaul our election system.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is a true Republican, but he takes a dim view of these voting reform bills. He posted this rather dry tweet: “We are reviewing bills. Once we see something that prioritizes the security and accessibility of elections, we’ll throw in support. At the end of the day, many of these bills are reactionary to a three month disinformation campaign that could have been prevented.”
Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, who is lead sponsor of SB 214 which is sort of the kitchen sink bill of voter suppression, is reported to have said after presenting his changes, "What we're doing here hasn't really been done since 2005, so it's not something that we ought to take lightly." And he’s right. Electoral changes that are as significant as those in his proposed bill should not be voted into law this quickly. Democrats might be wise to push for a study committee to carefully consider voting changes and come back to the legislature next session with well thought-out changes that have been carefully reviewed by experts and stakeholders.
An article from the New York Times is an overview of similar legislation around the country and draws the connection from proposed legislation back to the Big Lie of election fraud. It ends with a concerning observation that Georgia legislators should ponder: “Some states are adopting a blunderbuss approach to regulating voting that is only distantly related to fraud concerns. And it could mean massive collateral damage for voting rights.”