The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. — HL Mencken
“Nothing less than our democracy is at stake,” says Nancy Pelosi, US House Speaker.
The threat? According to apocalyptic warnings from the left, voting laws recently passed in 19 Republican-led states will suppress voting, particularly in the Black community, and mark the end of American democracy.
“In our lives and the life of our nation,” said President Joe Biden in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 11, 2022, “there are moments so stark that they divide all that came before from everything that followed. They stop time. They rip away the trivial from the essential. And they force us to confront hard truths about ourselves, about our institutions, and about our democracy. In the words of Scripture, they remind us to ‘hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate’ . . . . Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis? This is the moment to decide to defend our elections, to defend our democracy.”
“Our democracy stands in its final hour,” warns NAACP President Derrick Johnson.
“[W]e are already beginning to witness the pillars of our democracy crumbling,” says California Congressman Adam Schiff in an unsolicited email to “Doris” in Texas. (I am a man living in North Carolina, but for some reason Nancy Pelosi and Schiff and others in the Democratic party send me political emails, apparently under the impression that I am a Texas woman named Doris.)
NPR describes the issue as “the fight for voting rights.” CNN’s articles on the subject carry the heading “Voting Rights Under Attack.”
This is nonsense. The 2020 election was held in the middle of a once-a-century pandemic, so extraordinary measures were used around the country to accommodate voters, such as expanded voting hours, drop-boxes, easier mail-in voting requirements, etc. It worked, but like anything done during an emergency, there were mistakes and flaws. States are now incorporating many of these voting options into law, but also addressing some of the problems. These Republican voting laws may not be perfect in every detail – what law is? – but there is no “voter suppression.” Look at anything Republicans passed – rules on drop-boxes, mail-in votes, voter registration time periods, voter identification, whatever – and you will find the same voting rule currently in existence in some Democratic-run states. Check out this website comparing state-by-state election laws: https://www.multistate.us/issues/state-voting-and-election-laws
Consider the 4 “obstacles to voting” in Georgia’s law that Biden specifically attacked in his Atlanta speech:
MAIL IN VOTING. “[V]oting by mail is a safe and convenient way to get more people to vote,” Biden pointed out, “so they’re making it harder for you to vote by mail.”
The Georgia law does require that voters request a mail-in ballot, rather than applications going to all voters automatically, but many states have similar policies, and Georgia is in some ways more lenient. New York, for example, requires a reason to vote by mail (and recently voted down no-excuse mail-in voting ), whereas Georgia allows anyone to vote by mail, no reason needed.
DROP BOXES. “Dropping your ballots off to secure drop boxes,” Biden said, “it’s safe, it’s convenient, and you get more people to vote. So they’re limiting the number of drop boxes and the hours you can use them.”
Drop boxes weren’t available at all in Georgia elections prior to 2020, but were introduced because of the pandemic. While there will be fewer drop boxes than were available in the pandemic, drop boxes were made a permanent feature of elections, and drop box availability is now guaranteed in all counties.
LIMITS ON GIVING FOOD/WATER TO WAITING VOTERS. “When the Bible teaches us to feed the hungry and give water to the thirsty,” said Biden, “ the new Georgia law actually makes it illegal . . . to bring your neighbors, your fellow voters food or water while they wait in line to vote. . . . That’s not America. That’s what it looks like when they suppress the right to vote.”
In fact, free water can be provided by election officials at Georgia voting sites. Georgia is doing what all states do – creating a zone near voting sites where waiting voters are shielded from electioneering. Perhaps food and drink shouldn’t be specifically prohibited, but Georgia is not the only state to do it. Montana bans candidates and their workers from distributing food or drinks to voters near poling places. And Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer’s own New York prohibits giving “meat, drink, tobacco, refreshment or provision” to voters unless it has a value of less than $1 and is given without identification of the person or group supplying it.
CONTROL OVER LOCAL ELECTION OFFICIALS. “And here’s how they plan to subvert the election,” said Biden. “The Georgia Republican Party, the state legislature has now given itself the power to make it easier for partisan actors — their cronies — to remove local election officials.”
Georgia now gives a state board of officials – appointed by the Georgia legislature – the ability to remove a county-level official for “nonfeasance, malfeasance, or gross negligence in the administration of the elections.” (The Secretary of State had formerly been the chair of the state board of officials, but under the new law is a non-voting member.)
Of course, all states have provisions to remove a negligent local official. And this criticism is especially cynical, given Biden’s support for nationalizing elections with the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, which provides: “A statewide election administrator may only suspend, remove, or relieve the duties of a local election administrator in the State with respect to the administration of an election for Federal office for inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.”
Did you get that? Georgia’s law allows a local official to be removed for “nonfeasance, malfeasance, or gross negligence” while the Federal law allows a local official to be removed for “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance.” Can you tell which is the threat to democracy? Me neither.
Granted, Democrats object particularly to that power being taken away from the Secretary of State, an elected official, and given to a legislature-appointed board (especially after Trump unsuccessfully pressured Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find votes”). But many states give their legislatures that control. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 26 states an elected person is in charge of the voting, but in 24 states a person or committee appointed by the governor or state legislature is in charge of voting. Do half the states in the US permit “election subversion”?
Biden, the Democrats and their media supporters are trying to manufacture fear – “Voting rights are under attack!” – but it is an imaginary hobgoblin. Don’t let their hyperventilatings mislead you. It is a false alarm. You may disagree with some parts of these Republican laws, but they are not a threat to our democracy.