by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A voting reform bill in Georgia has sparked lawsuits, boycotts, and mass outrage among Democrats, who describe the law as a revival of Jim Crow-era racism. But much of the heated rhetoric surrounding the bill, which Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law on Thursday, misrepresents what the reforms will accomplish.
The debate over whether Georgia’s law constitutes “despicable voter suppression,” as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, has claimed, or necessary updates to the state code is significant. Democrats in Washington have used the specter of the law to push a sweeping federal bill aimed at overhauling all elections. They have even threatened to weaken or end the filibuster in order to pass the bill, known as H.R. 1, to fight what they have characterized as racism in the way states like Georgia want to conduct their elections. …
… President Joe Biden claimed during his first press conference last week, and again in a statement the following day, that the law would force polling locations to close at 5 p.m. “so working people can’t cast their vote after their shift is over.”
The law does not, however, cap voting hours at 5 p.m. It sets 5 p.m. as the earliest a polling place can close. In fact, the law gives polling places the discretion to remain open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during early voting, which could extend the amount of time people in some counties have to vote. …
… In reality, the law authorizes the use of drop boxes for the first time. In 2020, Georgia temporarily allowed people to place their ballots in designated boxes on an emergency basis due to the pandemic. That authorization would have expired, removing the boxes altogether, if state lawmakers hadn’t included a provision to approve them in the new law.
While there may be fewer boxes in the next election than there were in 2020, there would be none if Republican lawmakers didn’t write it into their bill.