Why Georgia’s new voting law is so important

From November 2020 to January 2021, the story of the state of Georgia was pro-democracy: Democratic candidates for president and the US Senate all won. But more importantly, it was pro-democracy. Joe Biden, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won in part because of the aggressive efforts of grassroots groups in the state to increase the number of people who voted compared to previous elections in Georgia. Two of the state’s top Republican elects, Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, rejected strong pressure from then-President Trump and other Republicans to effectively reverse the state’s presidential election results because Biden had won. The events in Georgia, along with a similar rejection of Trump’s false fraud claims in Arizona by Republican government Doug Ducey, were perhaps the clearest examples of how America’s democratic systems held up and kept Trump from cheating his way into a second term. .

A lot has changed since then.

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Now Georgia’s democratic position in 2020 looks more like a temporary victory in a broader struggle for American democracy that is still highly controversial. On Thursday, Kemp signed a major electoral law passed by Georgia’s republicans. Among other things, the law takes away some of the authority to conduct elections in Georgia from the secretary of state and local counties and transfers it to a state administration likely dominated by conservative Republicans. It includes a ban on providing food and water to people queuing to vote. And Kemp justified the new law by suggesting that there were unresolved questions about whether the elections in Georgia had been fair.

In short, Trump lost Georgia in 2020. But his story about that election – that it was stolen from him – has won among state republicans and is now effectively codified in state law.

Republicans are trying to pass laws making it harder to vote nationwide, and it’s not clear Georgia will be one of the most aggressive once they’re all finalized. But given what happened in Georgia from November to January, the finding is this law in that state is a particularly alarming sign that the Republican Party’s attacks on democratic norms and values ​​are continuing and in some ways accelerating.

Democrats have flipped a swing state and the Republican Party in that state has responded by enacting a law designed to make it more difficult for Democratic-leaning voters to cast ballots and make them count. A former Confederate state changed its electoral laws after a heavily black coalition of voters was instrumental in picking their preferred candidates for president and the US Senate, including the historic election of an African American senator to the state. A Republican official (Raffensperger) put country above party and was subsequently stripped of some of his authority.

There has already filed a lawsuit to prevent this Georgian provision from entering into force. And even if the law goes into effect, it’s hard to say exactly how it would affect the Republican and Democratic electoral outlook in Georgia – it clearly seems intended to make it more difficult for Democratic-leaning voters to exercise that right, but Democrats may still be able to win. So we don’t know exactly what this law will mean in an electoral sense. But in a democratic sense, there is already one clear result: America is a country of declining democracy because it has one major party that increasingly disrespects the election results it loses or the voting rights of those who oppose it. .

In other words, Republicans in Georgia did not emerge from the 2020 election with the aim of finding new messages or policies to appeal to the growing population of people of color in Georgia. Instead, they chose to suggest that these voters participated in the elections in Georgia inappropriately, which should be avoided in the future. The Washington Post suggests in its motto, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” But based on the actions of much of the current Republican Party, it may be more correct to say that it is dying out in the open.

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