Georgia voting law undermines nation’s democracy

On Thursday, Republicans enacted a law that targets the Democratic and Black voters who swung the 2020 election.

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State Rep. Park Cannon, D-Atlanta, is placed into the back of a Georgia State Capitol patrol car after being arrested by Georgia State Troopers at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta, Thursday. Cannon was arrested by Capitol police after she attempted to knock on the door of the Gov. Brian Kemp office after he signed into law a sweeping Republican-sponsored overhaul of state elections that includes new restrictions on voting by mail and greater legislative control over how elections are run.

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Georgia is now the Poach State.

On Thursday, Republicans enacted a law that targets the Democratic and Black voters who swung the 2020 election. Most egregiously, they included a provision that gives state-level Republicans the tools to take over county vote-counting machinery, kick votes to the side and tip future presidential and congressional vote results to get their desired outcome.

The law will allow Georgia’s legislature to poach elections at will.

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The law, hurried through in one day to limit criticism, has implications for the entire nation, especially if it is copied by other states. Former President Donald Trump sought to overturn the election by invalidating votes in states, including Georgia, where there were close outcomes. He unsuccessfully asked Georgia’s secretary of state to “recalculate” vote totals to “find” enough votes for him. Georgia’s new law will make it possible for the state to comply with such requests in the future. The Chicago Democratic Machine at its peak could only dream about such ability to reverse election results right out in the open.

In her 2017 book “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America,” Nancy MacLean describes a plan to so alter the rules that even majorities of Americans can never reverse them. Georgia is making that its playbook.

The 2020 ballot tabulation in Georgia was fair. The votes were counted three times, once by hand. Even one of the key players in Trump’s effort to overturn the election, lawyer Sidney Powell, is now admitting her claims of election fraud were all a big lie. The election wasn’t rigged, as Trump claimed. But in the future, it could be.

The law includes other ploys to dampen turnout among voters who might vote for Democrats. Polls will close earlier on Election Day. A drivers license number or other documentation, which not all citizens possess, will be required for mail-in ballots. The use of drop boxes will be limited, and will be unavailable in the four days before an election, when they are most needed by voters worried they don’t have time to mail in ballots. It shortens the deadline for requesting mail-in ballots and shortens the time until runoff elections. The law already has been challenged in court, but the outcome is unpredictable.

The law even criminalizes bringing food and water to voters forced to wait in line for up to 10 hours. It’s no secret who Georgia officials force to do that, and it’s not their Republican constituency. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, says voters in mostly Black precincts wait eight times longer to vote than voters in mostly white precincts. Meanwhile, more than 250 bills have been introduced across the nation to make it harder for targeted populations to vote.

But most worrisome is the way the Georgia law gives its legislature the power to appoint a majority of the state election board, including its chairman, who now is the secretary of state. That gives the state board the power to do what Trump wanted to do in 2020: Make decisions after the fact about which votes will be counted. State level officials, not those on the county level, will make the decisions on disqualifying ballots and voter eligibility. Who will be willing to stand in line for four, five or six hours to cast a ballot that can be arbitrarily tossed out later?

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The law has been described as an “attempted coup on the future,” “an abandonment of democratic principles” and, by President Joe Biden, “Jim Crow in the 21st century.” That’s not hyperbole.

In Congress, House Democrats passed a bill earlier this month to expand voting rights and reform campaign finance and redistricting rules. But unless the Senate’s filibuster rule is changed, it is unlikely to pass.

Benjamin Franklin, when asked after the Constitutional Convention what kind of government America would have, supposedly said, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

We can’t keep a republic if we not only suppress voting, but also let those in power put their thumbs on the scales after the fact to decide who won.

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