Opinion: The battle over Georgia’s elections goes nationwide

Georgia's election overhaul, including restrictions on the use of ballot drop boxes, has put the state at the center of national politics, and that's likely to last a while. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Georgia's election overhaul, including restrictions on the use of ballot drop boxes, has put the state at the center of national politics, and that's likely to last a while. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

I started covering the Georgia delegation in Congress back in the 1980s. I have never heard the state mentioned so often on Capitol Hill as in the past five months.

And with the fight over changes in Georgia’s election laws now drawing the attention of the entire country, the state will remain front and center.

“The fight for equal access to the ballot box is far from over,” said U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta.

“We are seeing a coordinated assault on our democracy, and the Senate must act to protect voting rights,” U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock said.

With Democrats ready to bring an election bill to the Senate floor in the weeks ahead, Warnock is certain to be a prime participant in the debate, and he has been swiftly targeted by Georgia Republicans in Congress.

“@ReverendWarnock should be ashamed for pushing the false narrative about Georgia’s new election law,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point, who has chafed at criticism from Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola and any Democrat who dared criticize the details of the Republican changes.

National Republicans quickly backed up the Georgia GOP.

“My warning — if you will — to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell said.

There was only one congressional hearing during the two-week Easter break for the House and Senate, and — of course — it focused on states such as Georgia moving to change their election laws.

“President (Joe) Biden accurately described this law as ‘Jim Crow in the 21st century,’ ” voting advocate Debo Adegbile testified before a U.S. House panel.

The White House has not shied away from the debate, with officials more than happy to point the finger at Georgia Republicans.

“The Georgia legislation is built on a lie,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “There was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election.”

The decision by Major League Baseball to move its All-Star game out of Atlanta put an even bigger national exclamation point on the brouhaha, since Colorado represents basically everything that then-President Donald Trump and Republicans railed against in the 2020 elections.

Colorado runs an all-mail election system, where every active registered voter is sent a ballot about a month before election day.

Colorado voters can return their ballot by mail, use a 24/7 drop box or vote at an in-person voting center.

This type of ‘universal mail-in voting’ is exactly what Trump claimed would create giant amounts of fraud, though — as in Georgia — there was never evidence of anything like that in 2020.

When I started working on Capitol Hill, the state of Georgia’s biggest public relations headache may have been Billy Beer.

Things are different in 2021. And it’s not going to quiet down anytime soon.

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.

In Other News