What’s really going on down in Georgia

Georgia’s Republican state legislature — after an election fueled by a huge Black turnout that helped elect a Democratic president and two Democratic U.S. Senators for the first time in a quarter century — passed legislation to make the franchise easier for these voters … That’s what Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and other apologists for the Georgia voter suppression measure want you to believe.

If you do, you would have been a perfect foil for the late Bernie Madoff’s investments scams.

Under the pretense of rooting out voter fraud — a Donald Trump inspired lie about the election that was refuted by counts and recounts, by Republican state officials and the courts — GOP dominated state legislatures are trying to make voting harder, especially targeting mail ballots used extensively by Democrats during the pandemic. Oblivious to criticism of voter suppression, these efforts are gathering steam around the country.

Trump carried Florida; Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis boasted it was a very well-run election. Still, DeSantis and Republican legislators are moving to crack down on mail voting, limiting drop boxes where mail ballots can be deposited, and making it harder to get these ballots.

“This could backfire on Republicans,” says Michael McDonald, a voting expert at the University of Florida. “If we revert to pre-pandemic patterns of Democrats returning to vote in person early and Republicans by mail.”

With right-wing Republicans so dominant in Arizona the party censured John McCain’s widow, the suppression moves there were justified by a top Republican state representative saying elections should be based on “the quality of votes” — not everybody should be voting. Another Arizona Republican state legislator suggested stripping Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, of all election authority and giving it to the legislature — the same Republican legislature that has hired an obscure firm to recount last November’s votes in Maricopa County, which provided Biden with his victory margin in November. There’s no legitimate basis except to give the Trumpites another phony talking point — one of the ballot counters is a former state representative who was at the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. It’s a harbinger of what they may do in the future.

The Georgia law is the starting point for most Republicans. Its insidiousness has been obfuscated by misrepresentations from Republicans and Democrats alike. President Biden charged the law cuts early voting hours, other Democrats that it curbed early voting on Sundays. Both claims are untrue.

These detract from the most blatantly partisan provisions. Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger did his job, honestly affirming — and with a recount — certifying the clear legitimacy of the November election which Biden won. He resisted personal pressure from Trump to manipulate the results. The former president vows to campaign against him next year.

The Trump-loving Georgia legislators wasted no time. They removed Raffensperger as the head of the State Election Board which oversees elections. The Republican legislature will name the chair.

The measure creates a “performance review” process. It sounds innocent; it isn’t. The Republican controlled election board, with no elected officials on it, can suspend county election officials it deems aren’t doing the job properly and pick replacements.

That official then has the authority to certify — or not certify — the election results and determine whether there was anything amiss in counties like Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett (all around Atlanta), or Richmond (which includes Augusta). Politically these counties are now all deep blue, the electoral threat to old line Georgia Republicans.

Sen. Scott, in his response to the President Biden’s address to Congress last week, claimed the Georgia law would make it “easier to vote,” expanding early voting and preserving no-excuse absentee voting.

He’s cherry picking, and that distorts the picture.

The bill does not reduce early voting for general elections; it does, however, dramatically reduce the time for run-offs which were the two big ones that enabled Democrats to win control of the Senate. It also restricts voting by mail, prohibiting any county from sending out absentee ballots to registered voters. and would drastically cut — and make less accessible — the number of drop boxes permitted in the large counties.

All of this is justified under the guise of preventing widespread “voter fraud” which doesn’t exist.

Al Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as reporter, bureau chief and Washington editor for the Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter century he wrote a column on politics for The Wall Street Journal, then The International New York Times and Bloomberg View. He hosts Politics War Room with James Carville. Follow him on Twitter @AlHuntDC.

Tags Arizona Arizona Republican Party ballot drop boxes Brad Raffensperger claims of 2020 election fraud Donald Trump Early voting Elections Florida Georgia Georgia election law Joe Biden John McCain mail in ballots Politics Postal voting Republican efforts to restrict voting following the 2020 presidential election Ron DeSantis Tim Scott Vote by Mail Voter suppression Voting

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