ATLANTA, GA – DECEMBER 14: Voters line up for the first day of the off-peak early voting … [+]
How is the newly passed Georgia electoral law to be viewed, which, interestingly, is known as the Election Integrity Act?
The actual content of last month’s statute is a good place to start. Unsurprisingly, many people focus on what arguably identify with some aspects of Jim Crow’s voting suppression laws from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A number of features make the dubious difference of restricting electoral access to black residents, who make up a third of the Georgian population.
One such example is that it is now illegal to provide food and water to those waiting on a polling line or within 150 feet of polling stations. On its surface, there is no reason this can be viewed as similar to Jim Crow Laws. But after a little digging, it is clear that polling stations with lines long enough to require a hydration or snack are mostly found in low-income neighborhoods with a majority of colored people. For example, a 2019 study found that voters in black neighborhoods wait an average of 29% longer than voters in white neighborhoods.
Another provision in the legislation that might be seen as strikingly similar to electoral laws that promote segregation is voter ID cards. The law requires all absent voters to show either a driver’s license, social security number, or other government-issued ID when applying for a ballot.
Again, while not specifically undermining a specific group of people, it is visibly targeted at specific groups, including black voters and immigrant voters. White voters are far more likely to have a driver’s license than any other race, while far less likely to have their license suspended than any other race.
Of course, there are certain aspects of the Electoral Integrity Act that appear to support the name. Let’s look at the expansion of early personal tuning. The rules call for a face-to-face vote three weeks ahead of time, including at least one Saturday. That way, those with demanding or multiple jobs or family responsibilities will still have the option to cast their vote.
It can also be argued that the ballot box requirement, widely used in the mid-2020 presidential election, promotes electoral integrity. However, there are some questionable caveats, like limiting the number of boxes per county, as well as location and usage times, which leave the question open whether or not this aspect of the bill supports integrity.
Given the staggering alleged intent of the new Georgia electoral law between the repression of Jim Crow and the need to improve the system, the content of the bill may not be the best way to assess this.
If the content isn’t working, then maybe the name itself could shed some light on it. You would think that a law called the Election Integrity Act has a clear goal. Namely, to promote and defend the integrity of the elections in Georgia.
However, the names of the legislation are very often misleading. This strategy – the name of the bill itself is a rhetorical device – is not new. (See this analysis of ‘The Equality Act’.)
This leaves us with the purpose of the bill. That is, if the content and name do not help us determine how to judge the law, then the reason it was enacted should.
Look at the foundation
The timing of this calculation is no coincidence. For the first time in 28 years, the votes of the Georgian presidential electoral college went blue – along with the crucial runoff election of the Senate in January, which gave the Democrats a slight Senate majority. This was largely due to the high turnout among black voters, many of whom relied heavily on ballot boxes and mail to vote.
As simple as that? Are Georgia Conservatives blatantly trying to prevent those who blued Georgia from ever doing it again?
Not if you assume that the 2020 presidential election, especially the results in Georgia, have been rigged. If you start with this idea, Electoral Integrity Law has real reason to stand on. It protects manipulated mail in ballot papers, defends itself against illegal activities with dropboxes and solidifies that every vote is legitimately linked to the voter.
However, both Republican and Democratic electoral officials, courts and an overwhelming majority in Congress have confirmed the election as valid. Just this week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it was a mistake to have that assumption. During her press conference on Tuesday, Psaki specifically stated that the law “is based on a lie. There was no widespread fraud in the 2020 elections. Georgia’s senior Republican electoral officials have confirmed this has been repeated in interviews. However, there was a record turnout, especially among color voters. ”
Obviously, Psaki bases her view of the law on what she believes it is based on. She sees the law in a negative light because it is her determination that it is based on a lie. On the other hand, Georgian legislation bases its positive attitude towards the law on a different basis. Namely, to maintain the likelihood of future elections in Georgia.
However you view the new electoral law, you should base that opinion on it. Start with the why before looking at the what. Opinions on laws tend to get mixed up when other aspects such as its content and its name are taken into account.
That outlook – to base a view on an initial assumption rather than what emerges from that assumption – should not preclude this scenario. That way, you can understand exactly what decisions you are based on. If you are only looking at the product of these decisions to make your judgment, it is possible that you are basing that judgment on false deceptions.
To make informed judgments, think beyond the clutter and find the basic assumptions.