William Steele: A dubious strategy to clip voting
More than 120 million Americans voted in the 2020 presidential election. It was the highest percentage of eligible voters to cast a ballot in more than a century, and Joe Biden received more than 81 million votes. Those are facts.
Encouraging the vote has been the goal for generations of Democrats and Republicans alike, and voting has come to be viewed not only as a privilege but a civic duty. Political parties sought to win elections based on merit and attracting voters with good candidates and policy positions.
But after losing decisively in November, it’s very clear the Republican leadership has made the decision that their best strategy is not to win votes, but by restricting the number of eligible voters and making voting more difficult.
This is self-destructive not only because it is a losing strategy, but because it is based on the false premise that Republicans lost due to widespread election fraud. Dozens of investigations and court decisions determined this was false. It’s the big lie.
To date Republicans have introduced more than 300 bills in 43 states aimed at restricting voting. The most controversial has been in Georgia, where a 98-page bill sailed through both houses of the Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp in one day. One day!
This Georgia law provides that:
— The state Legislature has the authority to remove the secretary of state as chair of the state Election Board, giving it ultimate partisan control of local elections.
— The time allowed for run-off elections is shortened.
— An ID is required to submit an absentee ballot.
— The number of drop boxes is sharply limited.
— The time for in-person voting on election day is shortened by one hour. Obviously, this primarily affects working people.
— It is a criminal offense to pass out water or food to those voters waiting in line at the polls. Ostensibly, this is to prevent communication with people standing in line. Can the Grand Old Party actually have sunk so low as to force the elderly and the disabled to stand in even longer lines in order to exercise their right to vote? And even forbid them a drink of water? Yes, they have.
This law has made the voting process in Georgia more partisan and more difficult, reversing the trend of decades. Why? It’s obvious, of course, and Republican leaders have told us why.
“We need these changes to make Republicans more competitive.” — A Georgia legislator.
“Making voting easier will help Democrats.” — A lawyer in an Arizona court.
“The Georgia election system was never made to be able to handle the volume of votes it handled.” — Alan Powell, Georgia Republican legislator.
“We’ll never be able to elect another Republican if we allow more voting.” — Donald Trump (The Guardian).
Opposition to the law has been immediate. Voting rights groups have filed dozens of legal actions and local corporations, such as Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola, have taken strong stands to oppose it.
It has created more support for HR 1, the For The People Act, which passed in the House and awaits action in the Senate, where it faces a tough battle. This is a broad bill that includes limits on partisan gerrymandering, provides for automatic voter registration, and strengthens campaign finance laws.
The new law in Georgia and the ones pending in other states makes it more necessary than ever that we act to safeguard our right to vote.
William Steele lives in Nevada City.
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