The Jolt: Carter Center warns against using old report to justify new rollbacks

President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter talk about the future of The Carter Center and their global work during a town hall, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Atlanta. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL
President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter talk about the future of The Carter Center and their global work during a town hall, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Atlanta. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

The Atlanta-based Carter Center is getting fed up with supporters of restrictive voting measures invoking a bipartisan 2005 report chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker to raise the specter of mail-in voter fraud.

As Republicans push for new limits on absentee ballots in Georgia, the 16-year-old findings of the Carter-Baker report are increasingly resurfaced by lawmakers and lobbyists who seize on the conclusion that mail-in ballots “remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”

But that’s only part of the story. The report noted more research was needed and highlighted many instances of positive absentee balloting practices. Since then, mail-in voting has expanded rapidly and Carter has urged political leaders to accelerate the trend.

Paige Alexander, the chief executive of the Carter Center, has a message for those who try to summon the report to validate new absentee voting restrictions: “It’s an inaccurate, attention-grabbing technique and we want to make sure it doesn’t go unanswered.”

“Referring back to the report is a red herring,” she said. “It’s a reactionary measure to three months of disinformation campaign that could have been prevented. Trying to grasp at a 16-year-old report for validation isn’t a good-faith argument.”

As she drove back from Plains, where she caught up with the former president and his wife Rosalynn, Alexander said the pushback was only just beginning.

The Carter Center and Baker Institute will hold a virtual series next month to revisit the 2005 report – and, notably, highlight the progress states have made on absentee balloting in the last 16 years.

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Speaking of the Carter Center, we reported Wednesday evening that a quartet of conservative U.S. House members believe the think tank is too cozy with China. Former President Jimmy Carter has long championed the idea of normalizing U.S.-China relations, but the East Asian country was vilified during Donald Trump’s administration and current lawmakers have taken up that crusade.

The letter taking issue with the Carter Center was signed by Georgia Reps. Jody Hice, Drew Ferguson, Buddy Carter and Austin Scott.

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Under the Gold Dome (Legislative Day 23):

  • 7:30 am: Senate committees begin meeting, including Senate Ethics Committee to hear SB 241, Sen. Mike Dugan’s wide-ranging voting bill;
  • 8:00 am: Additional House & Senate committees begin;
  • 10:00 am: The House convenes;
  • 10:00 am: The Senate convenes;
  • 3:30 pm: Gov. Brian Kemp press conference on COVID-19 distribution.

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U.S. Rep. Jody Hice made waves at a House hearing Wednesday, when he said at least one part of the 2020 election was “almost perfect”: The mail. Huh?

Our pal Jamie Dupree writes the wild scene for today’s Regular Order:

At a hearing, the Postmaster General apologized to lawmakers for mail delivery delays.

  • ELECTIONS. The echoes of 2020 were heard. Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) praised USPS for quickly delivering the vast majority of mailed ballots, saying the criticism from Democrats had been misguided. Hice called it ‘almost perfect.’
  • THE RESPONSE. When Hice finished, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) pounced. Lynch pointed out that while Hice felt USPS delivery of ballots had been ‘almost perfect,’ the Georgia Republican had voted to overturn the results of two states (Arizona and Pennsylvania) where large numbers of people voted by mail.

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Charlie Hayslett over at Trouble in God’s Country is the most effective writer we’ve seen on the growing divide in Georgia between the Metro Atlanta region and Everywhere Else.

Today he looks at how that’s manifested in higher education, where the ATL and its suburbs, if they were a state, near the top of educational attainment (just behind Massachusetts), while Everywhere Else is near the bottom, behind Mississippi. His new name for our split personality: “Massissippi.” More:

As bad as the educational divide is, it’ll probably get worse before it gets better — if it ever does. One disturbing trend previously unearthed here at TIGC is a stunning drop-off in enrollment at University System of Georgia (USG) institutions from the 147 non-Metro Atlanta counties. Based on an analysis of a decade’s worth of USG fall enrollment data, the non-Metro Atlanta counties were sending more new freshmen to USG institutions up through 2009.

But that changed in 2010, as the Great Recession began to take its toll: fall enrollment from the 147 non-Metro Atlanta counties fell off a cliff and started a five-year slide, as the graph here shows. Metro Atlanta took a one-year hit in 2011, then began a slow and mostly steady recovery year and got back to its high water mark in 2018. The other 147 counties finally enjoyed a little recovery in 2015 but then plateaued and have been flat since then.

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A new player in the fight over ballot access in Georgia has emerged.

A nonpartisan group called Secure Democracy sent a poll our way that shows a majority of Georgia voters – 54% – want to keep no-excuse absentee voting in place and nearly 60% oppose eliminating ballot drop boxes.

About 80% of Georgians back allowing a range of options to prove their identity when voting absentee, including listing a state issued driver’s license number or last four digits of their Social Security number. But most also opposed mailing a photocopy of driver licenses, citing the threat of identity theft.

“Instead of looking to limit options for voters, the Legislature should focus on things that Georgia voters support and improve the system, like online voter registration,” said Sarah Walker, the group’s executive director.

You can check the poll out here.

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Vice President Kamala Harris used her ceremonial office for the first time Wednesday to meet with a group of Black lawmakers. Georgia U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams was among the guests invited to discuss the latest coronavirus relief package and its impact on the Black community.

Williams, who got to know Harris on the campaign trail for Stacey Abrams and other Democratic candidates, considers the VP a friend. They are also members of the same sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha.

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U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene may have been sidelined after she was stripped of her committee assignments, but she showed on Wednesday that she can still make waves.

The Rome Republican, who opposes anti-discriminatory legislation for members of the LGBTQ community, made a motion to adjourn in hopes of delaying action on the measure. It failed but created an unplanned slowdown of the Equality Act’s progress.

U.S. Rep. Marie Newman, the lawmaker whose office is next door to Greene’s, decided to send a message by displaying a light blue, pink and white flag in the corridor. Newman has a transgender daughter.

“Our neighbor, @RepMTG, tried to block the Equality Act because she believes prohibiting discrimination against trans Americans is ‘disgusting, immoral, and evil,’” Newman, D-Illinois, wrote on Twitter. “Thought we’d put up our Transgender flag so she can look at it every time she opens her door.”

Greene responded by putting up an anti-trans sign outside her door, and she also posted transphobic comments on social media.

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