Georgians line up to vote early in US elections, October 2020
UPDATE, APRIL 3:
Major League Baseball is moving its All-Star Game after the restrictions on voting rights by the Republican-controlled Georgia Legislature.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement on Friday that the game will be shifted from Atlanta.
I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB draft.
Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.
The announcement followed days of lobbying from civil rights groups and discussions with the Major League Baseball Players Association, owners, team executives, and current and former players.
Other states with GOP-controlled legislatures are also considering voting rights restrictions. However, corporations and organizations are considering withdrawal of business from these areas if the measures pass.
Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines, both based in Atlanta, have criticized the Georgia legislation.
In Texas, the State Senate passed a bill this week to limit early voting hours, ban drive-through voting, and restrict absentee voting. It will be a crime for local election officials to mail absentee ballot applications to voters, even if they qualify.
American Airlines and Dell Technologies have expressed their opposition. Michael Dell, the chief executive of computer company, said on Thursday, “Free, fair, equitable access to voting is the foundation of American democracy….Those rights — especially for women, communities of color — have been hard-earned.”
Major League Baseball planned to celebrate an All-Star week dedicated to Atlanta Braves legend Hank Aaron, among the earliest Black players in the game. However, this would have occurred amid the effect on Black voters of the Georgia restrictions.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp — who benefited from voter suppression, and may have enabled it as Secretary to State, to win the Gubernatorial election in 2018 — said on Friday, ““Today, Major League Baseball caved to fear, political opportunism, and liberal lies. I will not back down.”
In 2017, the National Basketball Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association moved events of North Carolina after Republicans imposed a “bathroom ban” on transgender people. The state faced an estimated loss of $3.7 billion over 12 years if the law was not repealed — once it was, the NBA awarded Charlotte the 2019 All-Star Game.
UPDATE, MARCH 27:
President Joe Biden calls Georgia’s restrictions on voting rights an “attack on the Constitution”.
Speaking a day after his support of the For The People Act, which expand rights, Biden linked the Georgia legislation to the post-Civil War measures discriminating against Blacks:
This is Jim Crow in the 21st century, it must end. I will take my case to the American people — including Republicans who joined the broadest coalition of voters ever in this past election to put country before party.
If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.
Heeding Donald Trump’s demands, Republicans quickly pushed through the legislation. Governor Brian Kemp — damned by Trump for not overturning Biden’s victory in Georgia in November’s Presidential election — immediately signed the measure.
GOP legislators have introduced similar restrictions in at least 24 other states.
Jocelyn Benson, the Democratic Secretary of State in Michigan, summarized:
The 2020 election is behind us, but the war over the future of our democracy is escalating. For anyone to believe that they can sit down and rest because the 2020 election is behind need look no further than what happened in Georgia as an indication that our work is far from over.
Gov. Kemp responded with polemic against Biden and the “left”:
President Biden, the left and the national media are determined to destroy the sanctity and security of the ballot box. As secretary of state, I consistently led the fight to protect Georgia elections against power-hungry, partisan activists.
Kemp did not mention the controversy around his own record on voting rights. In 2018, he narrowly won the race for Governor amid criticism that, as Secretary of State, he had overseen restrictions limiting voting rights and access for people of color.
Biden explained in his statement, implicitly referring to record turnout in Georgia in the November election and in January run-off Senate election won by two Democrats against GOP incumbents:
Instead of celebrating the rights of all Georgians to vote or winning campaigns on the merits of their ideas, Republicans in the state instead rushed through an un-American law to deny people the right to vote.
This law, like so many others being pursued by Republicans in statehouses across the country, is a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience.
Two voting rights groups, the New Georgia Project and Black Voters Matter, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the legislation as violation of both the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the US Constitution. The groups said provisions “serve no legitimate purpose other than to make absentee, early, and election-day voting more difficult – especially for minority voters”.
Meanwhile, Trump, who lost to Biden in Georgia by 11,779 votes, said it was “too bad [the legislation] could not have happened sooner”.
ORIGINAL ENTRY, MARCH 26: As President Joe Biden supports efforts to expand voting rights, Georgia’s State legislature has passed the first of numerous Republican measures seeking to restrict them.
In his first press conference, Biden backed HR1, the House’s For The People Act, passed 220-210 on March 3. Provisions include requirements on states to offer same-day voter registration for federal elections, to hold early voting for at least two weeks, and to provide online registration. Automatic voter registration would be established for eligible citizens who provide information to state agencies, unless they opt out. Opportunities to vote by mail are expanded, and Election Day will be a federal holiday.
But Republican legislators have not only sworn to block the Act but have introduced scores of measures in State legislatures to restrict existing registration and voting by e-mail or in person.
Biden addressed the specific issue of bypassing a Republican filibuster in the Senate to block HR1, suggesting a limit on the tactic which is “being abused in a gigantic way” to prevent votes on legislation.
Without the modification, Democrats would have to obtain 60 votes in the Senate, divided 50-50, to get final consideration of the Act.
Biden told reporters:
I’m a fairly practical guy. I want to get things done. I want to get them done consistent with what we promised the American people. And in order to do that in a 50 50 Senate, we’ve got to get to the place where I get 50 votes so that the Vice President of the United States can break the tie, or I get 51 votes without her.
He said of the Republican measures at State level to restrict voting:
What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It’s sick. It’s sick.
Deciding in some states that you cannot bring water to people standing in line waiting to vote, deciding that you’re going to end voting at five o’clock when working people are just getting off work, deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances, it’s all designed, and I’m going to spend my time doing three things. One, trying to figure out how to pass the legislation passed by the House, number one, number two, educating the American public.
A New “Jim Crow” Law in Georgia?
Hours later, the Georgia Legislature passed its restrictive bill. It mandates more stringent voter verification requirements for absentee ballots, allows political officials to take over election boards, and limits ballot dropboxes. Any Georgian can make unlimited challenges to voter registrations.
It is now a misdemeanor crime to offer food and water to voters waiting in long lines to cast ballots.
The state’s Black voters have often stood for hours to vote in inclement weather. In 2018, Governor Brian Kemp won in a close race against Stacy Abrams after many voters, most of them people of color, were disenfranchised or hindered from casting ballots.
Critics have said that the state’s restrictions hark back to the post-Civil War “Jim Crow” measures to prevent Blacks from voting.
But Georgia’s Republicans acted after Joe Biden won the state in November, the first Democratic Presidential triumph since 1992. The victory has been credited to turn out the vote efforts, organized by Abrams.
Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff then won the seats of incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in runoff elections in January.
Amid Trump’s disinformation and lies about voting, Georgia’s Republicans followed his demand for intervention by state legislatures — even though there is no evidence of significant fraud.
Governor Brian Kemp immediately signed the legislation on Thursday. Ironically, he and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was assailed by Trump for failing to overturn Biden’s 11,779-vote margin.
Kemp claimed that the new law “makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat”.
Raffensperger and his wife were threatened by Trump supporters over the Secretary of State’s support of last November’s outcome. He carefully said yesterday, “In implementing this law, I will ensure that no eligible Georgia voter is hindered in exercising their right to vote, and I will continue to further secure our elections so that every Georgian can have confidence in the results of our elections.”
Trump announced that he is backing Georgia Rep. Jody Hice against Raffensperger in next spring’s GOP primary.