Opinion: What Georgia’s record-breaking early voting means

Editor’s note: Jay Bookman is a Georgia author and national award-winning political columnist who has written for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other newspapers. He now writes regularly for the Georgia Recorder. Follow him on Twitter @jaysbookman. The opinions expressed here are his own. read it more reviews on CNN


Voter turnout continues to be a record high here in Georgia, with early voting totals approaching those seen in presidential election years. In this closely-watched, high-stakes and hard-fought campaign season, the natural question is: what does that mean?

As for predicting the results, it’s hard to say. In the Trump era, high turnout isn’t necessarily the advantage it used to be for Democrats, and we don’t know how much of the early voter surge represents newly motivated voters or just voters who should be voting. other ways The high-profile candidates in the Senate and gubernatorial races are undoubtedly pushing voters to vote, and with so many wild-card factors at play this year – Roe v. From repealing Wade to inflation to changes in state election laws – it’s. It is impossible to know what the electorate of 2022 will look like.

This uncertainty is a nightmare for pollsters. Predicting how people will vote is fairly easy. Predicting whether they will vote or not makes things complicated and the results are misleading. In a turbulent year like this, with so many variables, it’s a question for the rest of us to place too much credence in the survey’s work product.

Georgia Republicans, however, are poised for victory on at least one front. They believe the high turnout represents a vindication that SB 202 – the “Election Integrity Act” they passed last year – was not an effort to suppress voter participation, as Democrats claimed.

But the bragging about Georgia’s 98-page ballot bill doesn’t hold up, for several reasons:

  • The fear and anger that apparently drove voters of both parties to the polls this year may have thwarted the repressive effect last year’s SB 202 was intended to have.
  • Democrats have built an efficient, well-funded voter protection apparatus to help people overcome the bureaucratic obstacles that stand between them and the ballot box.
  • Voter disenfranchisement is not about reducing overall turnout, but rather trying to target specific subgroups. We won’t know its true impact until all the votes are counted and analyzed, and even then we won’t be sure.
  • Attempted voter suppression, like attempted insurrection, remains attempted suppression, even if unsuccessful.

That last point is critical. At their core, Republicans have argued that the changes implemented in SB 202 – making absentee ballots more difficult, significantly reducing the number of drop boxes in urban areas – were necessary to combat voter fraud. But logically, that motive makes no sense.

Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed the bill, and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who supported it, already acknowledged that voter fraud played no role in the last election. In Raffensperger’s words, “we had a safe, secure and honest election,” a conclusion shared by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, former President Donald Trump’s Justice Department federal officials, and state and federal judges. And if fraud was not the real reason for these changes, what was?

From the beginning, the entire “voting fraud” industry has been a bad-faith invention to serve as a cover for minority-targeted voter suppression. We know this because every Republican administration for the past quarter century has tried desperately to find evidence of such fraud on a scale large enough to swing an election, and each investigation has failed miserably. When he served as Georgia Secretary of State from 2010 to 2018, Kemp tried and failed to uncover the fraud. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis continues to try to find her, and so far he too has come up empty.

And it is the consequences of this bad faith narrative that should concern us. As we saw in 2020, Trump took the suspicion and mistrust of the electoral system that the GOP had nurtured for decades and channeled it to an even more nefarious purpose, turning it from an excuse to suppress the vote to an excuse to treat it like an election result. totally illegitimate.

Trump continues to make that argument to this day. telling supporters in the rallies this fall “I don’t think we will have fair elections again. I don’t believe it.”

This purposefully corrosive cynicism affects the very foundations of democratic self-government, because it finds an audience.

In SB 202, for example, Georgia Republicans added a clarifying sentence to a section of state law about how a voter or electors can legally challenge the right of other voters to vote. It now says: “There shall be no limit on the number of persons against whose qualifications that selector may challenge.” The new law also requires local election boards to hold a hearing on challenges within 10 business days.

If it sounds like an invitation to create chaos, that’s exactly what it is.

Statewide, conservatives are trying to challenge the eligibility of tens of thousands of legally registered voters on very flimsy grounds and are frustrated that those challenges continue to fail.

In Gwinnett County, for example, “vote integrity” activists have challenged the selection of more than 40,000 registered voters in an increasingly diverse and increasingly Democratic county, placing an enormous burden on the county’s small election staff. The challenges so far have been rejected in a 3-2 vote, two Democrats and one independent Republican.

“We’re doing your job,” one frustrated activist told the Gwinnett board of elections at an Oct. 19 meeting. “Put your region in order or put your things in order.”

That’s what happens when you sell people on a false narrative, then rewrite state laws to encourage them to take action on that false narrative. If the vote has not been deleted so far, the vote has been trusted.