Georgia Election Law is Not a Return to Jim Crow
There’s been an awful lot of counter-productive shouting over Georgia’s adoption of a new voting law. Is this law – which has angered corporate chieftains, major league baseball, and a host of others – really a return of Jim Crow?
Cato’s Walter Olson says “no.” If anything, it’s provisions would not have raised an eyebrow anywhere before election procedures were changed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Why the sharp reactions then?
The left-leaning Brennan Center has driven a lot of coverage with a running survey finding that GOP lawmakers have introduced more than 350 state bills that “would restrict access to the ballot.” That scary-sounding formulation can mean almost anything. In the eyes of the Brennan people, for example, it “restricts access to the ballot” for a state that did 15 days’ worth of early voting during the pandemic—after having never done it at all before 2020—to scale back to doing only 10 days’ worth at the request of county administrators stretched thin. It also means measures to check voter ID, a step widely popular with voters across the board, including those from minority groups.
If the terrain over which people are bickering is solidly within the range of election law considered normal a half dozen years ago, it’s probably not a return of Jim Crow, nor is it likely to spell the end of American democracy. And most of the bickering—on measures likely to pass—is on stuff like this.
Olson’s colleague Ilya Shapiro says the Georgia election law story is an “outrageous double standard” that ignores what the General Assembly actually passed:
SB 202 actually expands voting access for most Georgians, codifying the new opportunities to vote early and absentee (by mail and drop‐off) introduced during the pandemic. For example, on those many days of early, in‐person voting — including two Saturdays, and optional Sundays — voting locations have to be open at least eight hours, with county officials given leeway to adjust the times to suit their constituents. Voting hours on Election Day are even longer, while the window for requesting absentee ballots is set at “only” 67 days; applications can be completed online but must be received at least eleven days before an election to allow time for the ballot to be mailed out and returned. (For more myth‐dispelling details, see this excellent primer by Georgia Public Broadcasting, which is hardly the source people turn to when they think Fox News has an anti‐conservative bias.)