This year, Republican lawmakers in the Georgia General Assembly have introduced numerous bills to, quite simply, make it harder to vote.
Their proposed legislation would limit absentee voting, require photo ID at additional points, restrict use of mobile polling places or ballot drop boxes and even ban the Southern hospitality of offering food or drinks to people waiting in long poll lines.
In an apparent move to reduce the predictable blowback against these new restrictions, a Georgia House committee on Wednesday removed a proposed ban on Sunday early voting. That strategic nod seems intended to placate fans of the “souls to the polls” efforts by many to promote voting after religious services.
While it’s welcomed, removing one particularly bad idea from one deeply flawed bill doesn’t magically make the rest of the legislation acceptable.
Especially when the bill seems part of a concerted campaign to make voting more difficult.
In spite of Wednesday’s actions, too many changes remain under consideration.
Maintaining a robust and secure system that makes it easy for those who are eligible to vote is an important part of the American way. And a state that’s as important as Georgia should be supporting this key principle of democracy – not chipping away at it without good reason.
Let us not forget that every piece of evidence indicates that election integrity is not a significant problem here. To the contrary, this state’s election system seems sufficiently secure – a point made repeatedly by the Republican officeholders in charge of maintaining election security, namely Georgia’s secretary of state and governor.
None of this is to say there isn’t a problem here. There is. But it seems one of perception, fueled by falsehoods, especially by those who do, or should, know better.
Fewer than 60 days have passed have passed since the then-president of the United States urged Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to discount his defeat in a lawfully run election. To his great credit, Raffensperger stood his ground in the face of fiery criticism and unwarranted accusations of a “stolen” election.
The repetition or acceptance of untrue claims by some in power have, yes, shaken faith in the core citizen-held power that is the vote.
A poll conducted last month for the AJC by the University of Georgia found that 38% of voters believed there was significant fraud in last November’s presidential election. Admittedly, some three-quarters of Republican voters surveyed thought fraud was a big factor in the election, versus 4% of Democratic respondents.
Enacting substantial changes to fix a problem that has not been proven to exist won’t do anything to bridge the partisan gulf that now stretches across Georgia.
It’s also worth noting that Georgia legislators have not asserted that the November vote totals, which also kept them in office at the Gold Dome, were somehow lacking in integrity. If Georgia’s election system truly is flawed, shouldn’t those election results likewise come into question?
They haven’t, and that speaks volumes.
The single-sentence mission statement of sorts for the House election integrity committee reads that maintaining “accessibility” and “efficiency” of elections are part of what the latest fuss is all about.
Given that, we can’t see how further restricting processes that seem to have worked well during a hard-fought election does anything but neuter those admirable goals.
The Editorial Board.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC