Opinion: Election proposals take parties in very different directions

We don’t usually see the same subject debated at the same time in the Georgia Legislature and the U.S. Congress, but that’s where we were this week, as Republicans and Democrats head in dramatically different directions when it comes to election laws.

For Democrats, the goal of a major election bill in Congress is to give voters broader options to cast absentee ballots, to vote by mail or to have more days to vote early in person.

In a number of GOP-led states, the answer is squeezing those options — limiting those eligible to cast an absentee ballot or to vote by mail, shrinking the availability of early in-person voting days and even — in the state of Iowa — cutting back on voting hours at the polls on election day.

“The most reprehensible of all efforts might be found in Georgia,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, who called GOP efforts to cut back on Sunday early voting in Georgia ”pernicious,” while others used words like ”draconian.”

“I am not worried about the administrators in Georgia,” said U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. “I am worried about the Legislature in Georgia.”

“Every voice must be heard and every vote must be counted,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Suwanee.

Republicans continued to speak ominously of a 2020 election that they claim was rife with fraud and election misdeeds, though just like former President Donald Trump, they don’t produce much in the way of detail.

For example, one Georgia Republican, former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, spoke this week in a television interview about ”imbalances” in the state’s 2020 elections, a result that was checked repeatedly by audits and recounts.

“The worst thing in the world that can happen is for the federal government to nationalize our election system,” U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Greensboro, said as state Republicans denounced the election bill in Congress.

“This bill will weaken what many states are doing to improve election security,” said U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler.

To Democrats, the phrase ”election security” is nothing more than code for Republicans in Georgia and other states trying to limit voting opportunities.

Meanwhile, one U.S. Supreme Court justice was thinking about Georgia as well.

“If a state cancels Sunday early voting, and Black people vote on Sunday 10 times more than white voters, is that legal under the Voting Rights Act?” Justice Elena Kagan asked during arguments over a major voting rights case.

The answer from a lawyer from the Republican National Committee was ”yes,” that it is legal to shut off Sunday early voting.

“We need to pass the For The People Act to ensure every American can cast their ballot,” said U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga.

The differences are stark. And the fight over election laws is not going away, in Georgia, on Capitol Hill or in the courts.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and the Congress from Washington since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com