Somewhere in hell Lester Maddox and Richard Russell have broad grins:
During the 2020 election cycle in Georgia, Donald Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state. His efforts to manipulate the electoral process failed after Raffensperger stood up to the president and defended the integrity of the election. But if the Georgia legislature has its way, Republicans could have a much easier time overturning the will of voters in future elections.
The Georgia House of Representatives passed a major power grab on Thursday that would remove Raffensperger as the chair and a voting member of the state election board, which oversees the certification of elections and voting rules, and instead allow the GOP-controlled legislature to appoint a majority of the board’s members. “This is extraordinarily dangerous,” says Sara Tindall Ghazal, the former election protection director of the Georgia Democratic Party. “When you’re appointing the majority of the body that you’re responsible to, it’s self-dealing.”
The state board, in turn, would have extraordinary power under the bill to take over county election boards it views as underperforming, raising the possibility that elections officials appointed by and beholden to the heavily gerrymandered Republican legislature could take over election operations in Democratic strongholds like Atlanta’s Fulton County, where Trump and his allies spread conspiracy theories about “suitcases” of ballots being counted by election officials in November after GOP poll monitors had left.
These provisions to strip power from the secretary of state and expand challenges, inserted into the voting bill on March 17, were late additions to legislation that had already drawn widespread criticism for making it harder to vote. The bill was two pages when it was passed by the Senate, but a House committee expanded it to nearly 100 pages, renaming it the Election Integrity Act of 2021.
The earlier provisions that remain in the bill would also restrict voting access in Georgia: severely limiting mail ballot drop boxes, adding new voter ID requirements for mail-in ballots, rejecting ballots that are cast in the wrong precinct, and making it a crime to give voters food or water while they’re waiting to vote. The bill would also make it more difficult for counties to run elections by prohibiting them from accepting donations from nonprofit groups, which were used in 2020 to add more voting sites and drop boxes, and ban innovations like mobile voting buses that made voting more convenient.
It is a matter of the utmost urgency that Congress act to preempt the New Jim Crow, and it’s a brutal indication of how debased the current Supreme Court is that the law will almost certainly stand if it doesn’t.
It’s also important to resist the emerging Savvy take that the wave of Republican vote suppression isn’t really that big of a deal. It’s true, for example, that it’s not obvious that in non-pandemic elections Republicans will benefit from reducing or eliminating no-excuse mail ballots. But that’s not the point — it’s very bad to make people in majority-minority precincts to wait hours to vote even if they’re willing to make the sacrifice. And Republicans in gerrymandered legislatures taking over the administration of elections represents a potential existential threat to American democracy.