NewsPub Notes

Athens Republicans Helped Put Georgia Back in the Limelight With New Voting Law

Under the new law, drop boxes can’t be outside or used outside early voting hours or on Election Day. Credit: Pete McCommons

After basking in the political spotlight throughout the presidential election and its aftermath, and then the senatorial elections and their runoffs, we were all feeling a little bit wistful that Georgia seemed to be slipping out of the national attention span.

But now, Georgia Republican legislators and the governor have come to our rescue. We’re back on the front burner and cooking with gas. Every news outlet in the country is buzzing about the remarkable feat pulled off by the Republicans, who passed a 100-page bill restructuring our elections IN JUST ONE DAY! And then the governor signed it THE SAME DAY! What a fast reader he must be, in spite of what they say about him.

And to tell you the truth, when we were in the national spotlight back in the fall and winter—carrying the state for Joe and defeating two denim-clad incumbent Republican senators, plus having our secretary of state refuse to acquiesce to pressure from the president—we did begin to feel a little bit nervous, like when everybody is saying what a good kid you are and you have just been out behind the garage smoking stolen cigarettes.

So now it’s kind of a relief to be back in the spotlight for more of the same old stuff Georgia has always been famous for. That role-model pose was beginning to get a little stiff. We’re more comfortable with the I Was a Fugitive From a Georgia Chain Gang kind of national image, or the guns-and-trucks persona the governor acted out so well when he was running.
So here we are back on the national stage for voter suppression, something the governor knows a lot about—and these five local guys are on center stage.

Now, I don’t want to give Brian Kemp, Bill Cowsert, Frank Ginn, Marcus Wiedower and Houston Gaines credit where it’s not due. It may be that some of them actually had a hand in restraining the crazies in their party who wanted to flat-out ban absentee ballots or take the franchise back to just white men, but, anyway, they all voted for the voter-suppression bill that the governor signed, so they deserve our thanks for that.

Their tour-de-force of a bill shortens the early voting period, curtails the use of drop boxes, requires an ID card for absentee voting, makes it a crime to give somebody a drink of water no matter how long they’ve been standing in line to vote, purges the secretary of state from control of elections and establishes the Georgia legislature as the final judge of all election results in every county (especially Fulton!) in the state, no matter what the local boards of elections say about the results.

Why did they do all this? Yep. The last election was crooked. It was stolen. Truckloads of ballots weren’t counted. Truckloads of ballots were counted twice, some three times. People voted too early. People who voted absentee (too many of them) put their ballots into (gasp) drop boxes so that they could stay safe from the fake pandemic.

This 100-page bill showboats the political skills of our hometown heroes. You know, it’s one thing to decry corruption over in Atlanta. Looks good on TV; doesn’t step on any toes. But when you’re saying that your own local election board is crooked (when you know it’s not, because, hey, you got elected, didn’t you?) that takes some pretty smooth sidestepping. In fact, the whole 100-page bill demands the utmost in political gamesmanship. You’ve got to opine earnestly that the last elections were stolen, in spite of all the court cases and recounts—at county election boards like ours all over Georgia, two-thirds of which voted overwhelmingly for Republicans. Takes a mighty good politician to pull that one off and still look good in church on Sunday.

But here’s the big payoff: Just suppose that by putting Georgia back on everybody’s mind, Kemp, Cowsert, Ginn, Wiedower and Gaines have provided the clinching outrage that will somehow push the For The People Act—the voting rights act—through the U.S. Senate and stop Georgia and Iowa and Arkansas and Florida and all those other states from messing with the people’s right to vote. Wouldn’t that be something?

You never know about politics. Just when you’re whistling “Dixie,” the law of unintended consequences can make you change your tune.