An Argument that Georgia’s Voting Bill is not Suppressive

There are few things that are as sure as death and taxes, but Democrats calling voting bills suppressive is a close second. An age old tradition in politics is that any Republican voting measure is dismissed as suppressing the vote. The suppression seems to only ever occur in African- American communities, no less. Especially in the American South, you must always let everyone know that conservatives are trying to go backwards to the “good old days” when only white men selected representatives. The point is simple enough: Democrats must tell their supportive groups that they are being disenfranchised, playing on emotions of the past, so that they show up to the polls in higher numbers defiantly thus increasing their odds of success on Election Day.

The snowball effect of politicians and activists coming out and slamming a voting bill is a reflex.  Surely no one actually reads these things.  Who has the time for that anyway?  Even corporate leaders are joining in on the fun in this new world.  Do the CEOs of DOW 30 companies have legal teams anymore or does it not even matter?  Let me then take the other side of the argument after reading through the legislation.  

The first hit on the new legislation is the easiest claim to make- no food or water in the lines. On the surface, you hear President Biden tell the media that such a provision is indecent and the bill as a whole is tantamount to Jim Crow. If that’s the only thing you see on the matter, then you may be inclined to think that these people down in Georgia are just cruel and inhumane. You would be especially so if you also saw the stories in previous election cycles that only African- Americans wait in long lines to vote (I find this to be a subjective talking point). The feeling would compound again once you realize how hot it must be down there in the Deep South.

Now let’s broaden the scope on this a bit.  The rule that is amended is discussing the illegality of soliciting votes in exchange for something of value.  Section 33 of the bill states that persons should not display campaign material, give any gifts or money, or solicit signatures for petitions.  It is a fairly common and understood practice that there should not be influencing material or offers of value up and down a voting line.  Now the rule also does not preclude people from doing these activities entirely either (remember how you always see every possible campaign sign across the street from your polling place).  The rule states that you cannot provide food or water within 150 feet of a building where a polling place is located, within a building holding a polling place or 25 feet from a voter standing in line at a polling place.  In my opinion, this would mean if you would like to stand and hand out water bottles about a football field’s length away, the state says go for it.  By the way, if you think you’re going to be there a while, bring a water bottle and a granola bar, no one will mind. 

The second thing that any left winger will always call suppression is voter ID.  This has forever been an issue where somehow procuring a state ID to vote is an insurmountable burden.  Again, the argument tends to lean on previous laws setting a high bar on the African- American vote.  I’m not here to discuss those statutes but that’s where Democrats and activists will always draw the line.  On the other side, conservatives continue to pound the table on security.  The Republicans have gone around saying that providing ID to vote is a basic requirement and the only way to insure security for elections.  Basically, in this bill neither point is entirely true. 

Asking a voter in Georgia to provide a Driver’s License or state ID for voting absentee is the new addition this year.  Providing ID to vote in person is already required in the state of Georgia.  Now in reading the bill I noticed that the amendments did not stop with Driver’s License or State Issued ID. Section 28 discusses the envelope which is used to submit an absentee ballot.  The elector should write his/ her Georgia Driver’s license number or Identification Card number on the envelope.  The amendment continues on to say that if a voter does not have a Georgia Driver’s License or Identification Card, the voter should affirm this to be the case and write the last four digits of their Social Security Number.  Further, the amendment states that if the elector does not have a Driver’s License, Identification Card, or Social Security Number, they may provide a copy of a form of ID permitted under Section C of Code Section 21-2-417.  Those other forms of Identification include a Utility Bill, Bank Statement, Government check, Paycheck or other government document displaying your name and address.  Section 25 of the bill is amended to state processes for applying for an absentee ballot.  The amendment of Section 25 also discusses the request for ID when applying for an absentee ballot.  The same procedures apply as in Section 28.  A voter may provide a Georgia Driver’s license, Identification card, or in the absence of those forms, any of the previously mentioned Identifiers. 

There is not a terribly strict measure here stating that only those authorized to drive in Georgia may vote by absentee ballot.  There is no restriction that even requires a voter to procure an ID card.  You must provide some basic form of proving a name and address – this makes sense because the state must send the ballot somewhere.  The point here is that the left should calm down on the suppression pandering because I can’t see this being terribly burdensome.  For supporters on the right, maybe call this extensive list of acceptable ID to attention.  This point would likely be seen by Republican politicians as backing down and being “soft” on security.  In the end, they are to blame for that because that is the only talking point they’ve had.

As I was going through this bill, I noticed an amendment that no one has discussed.  This point is actually a nod to the left and their argument on long lines.  If the Democrats and activists did care about their alleged suppressed voters, they would champion this amendment.  If the Right wanted to appear to be compromising and, frankly, compassionate, they would bring this up in media spots.  Section 18 of the bill discusses changes to precinct size as well as equipment and polling staff.  The first section already existed in the law.  It states that any precinct greater than 2000 electors where those who want to vote and cannot within 1 hour of polls closing must make adjustments in the next election.  Those changes would either include a resizing of the precinct to be less than 2000 voters or an increase in machinery, poll staff or both.  The amendment added this year is where I think value is created.  The amendment states that any precinct greater than 2000 electors where those who desire to vote but must wait in line for over 1 hour before checking in must make changes.  The changes are the same remedies listed above for the first statement. There is a clause in the bill where the wait time should be checked at a minimum of 3 times in the day.  

In my opinion, this truly cuts to the disservice that media outlets, political leaders and think tank brains provide to the American people.  Everyone competes for eyeballs and attention spans are about the size on a grain of sand at this point.  Most people work for a living and don’t have hours to spend reading legislative documents.  Unfortunately, my opinion is swaying towards actually reading the text of bills, statistical outputs and coming to my own conclusions.  

As for this bill, I find it fairly outrageous to swipe at it with claims of suppression, racism and the rebirth of segregation. In reality, the bill doesn’t suit an expressed value on the left where anyone can vote at any time in any place without proving identity, citizenship or age for that matter. It will likely be used as a successful fundraising tool where PACs will fuel up for another election cycle. Advertisements will be made, memes posted online (and not flagged for misinformation), and rallies will be had all on the back of this legislation. Many will never take the time to understand the underlying activity and will know for a fact that the Georgia legislature is just a punitive, bigoted, right wing political steamroller.