The debate about voting and voting laws in the United States is truly more about partisan politics than objective analysis. A common refrain is that every American should have the right to vote and not face obstacles to casting ballot. But the fact is that elections are about winning and losing – and power – and every party, every candidate truly only wants supporters, not opponents, casting ballots.
Democrats claim Republican leaders in red states are systematically making it harder for people to vote, particularly Blacks and other minorities that traditionally favor Democrats. They are seeking national standards that would effectively take away each state’s legal right to run its own elections.
More accurately, Republican lawmakers in states such as Georgia, which has faced the most criticism for its voting law revisions, are making changes in large part because of so many practices that were implemented in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic: no-excuse absentee voting, mail-in voting, drop boxes.
Georgia is being used as the poster child for a campaign aimed at painting Republicans as vote suppressors. A closer look reveals something quite different – and makes us wonder why blue states to include President Joe Biden’s Delaware are not subject to criticism for their rules and laws that are less liberal than Georgia’s.
The conservative Washington Examiner states: “From voter ID requirements to ballot drop boxes, and early voting schedules to absentee ballot access, there is little new or unique in Georgia’s rules. In fact, many of the measures critics are attacking have long been in place in blue states, including Biden's home state of Delaware.”
The newspaper reports the following about Georgia’s election laws:
• The Georgia law actually adds time for early in-person voting. Georgia expanded the number of days to 17. Compare that to liberal Massachusetts with only 11 days of early voting. And Biden’s home state of Delaware has no in-person early voting as yet.
• Many states, including Georgia, expanded voting by mail ahead of the 2020 election in order to accommodate public health concerns about the pandemic. The result was a lot of confusion and delays.
The new Georgia law shortens the window of time in which voters can request their mail-in ballots; that window will now close two Fridays before Election Day, which supporters say will give voters more time to receive and then mail back their ballots without missing the deadline.
The Georgia law also left intact the state’s no-excuse absentee voting rules, meaning anyone, regardless of their ability to vote in person, can request a mail-in ballot.
Delaware does not offer no-excuse absentee voting.
• Voting rights advocates often claim that ID requirements disenfranchise voters of color, and many of them have railed against the Georgia law for its voter ID provisions.
But the Georgia reforms simply extended existing ID requirements — voters must show ID to vote in person in Georgia — to voting by mail.
Thirty-six states request at least some form of documentation in order to vote, including Delaware.
• Critics of the Georgia law have also misleadingly claimed that it takes ballot drop boxes away from voters and therefore eliminates opportunities to vote.
But the Peach State did not allow the use of any drop boxes prior to 2020, when Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp authorized them on an emergency basis due to the pandemic. For the first time, the Georgia Legislature voted to authorize drop boxes on a permanent basis.
• A headline-grabbing provision in the Georgia law was a ban on political or voting rights groups distributing food and water to voters within 150 feet of a polling location. The practice, which critics call “line warming,” is now a misdemeanor under the new rules.
Supporters said it closed a loophole in existing laws that prohibited politically affiliated organizations from trying to sway voters as they waited outside their polling places to cast their ballots. Nonpartisan election workers can still set up self-service stations where thirsty voters can help themselves to water as they stand in line.
Other states, including New York, have bans on campaigns or political groups enticing voters with snacks at the polls.
So the next time neighboring Georgia’s election law is singled out as some kind of return to the Jim Crow era, try a comparison with other states about which not a word is being uttered about voting regulations and practices.