Skip to main content

Georgia, Georgia: No Peace I Find

John Peeler: The most nakedly partisan changes essentially strip the Secretary of State of any control over elections, transferring that authority to the legislature itself (solidly in Republican hands).
Election Integrity Laws

Georgia has become the first Republican-controlled state to actually enact a sweeping program of election law changes that, on balance, promise to make voting harder, especially for the poor in general and urban Blacks in particular. It’s true that some features of the plan would make voting easier, such as an expansion of Saturday early voting (even as Sunday early voting, used heavily by Black churches, is sharply curtailed and rendered optional). 

But on balance, the strong Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature, and Governor Brian Kemp (widely accused of electoral manipulation as the Secretary of State who was running for Governor in 2017) were eager to plug the holes that permitted Joe Biden to narrowly win the state, and allowed Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to win runoffs in January.

The most nakedly partisan changes essentially strip the Secretary of State of any control over elections, transferring that authority to the legislature itself (solidly in Republican hands). 

The most nakedly partisan changes essentially strip the Georgia Secretary of State of any control over elections, transferring that authority to the legislature itself (solidly in Republican hands). The legislature will appoint the Chair of the State Election Board, leaving the Secretary of State as merely a nonvoting ex officio member. This state board, now effectively under the control of the legislature, is empowered to suspend county or municipal election superintendents and replace them with temporary substitutes.

The time allowed for early voting is substantially curtailed, both as to the time before an election when such voting is allowed, and the hours permitted. While local superintendents are given discretion to increase the number of early voting locations, they are strictly limited as to the days and hours when early voting is permitted.

Drop boxes for deposit of absentee ballots are severely curtailed, both as to the number and the location. One box is permitted for each early voting location, or for each 100,000 voters in the county, and, importantly, the drop box must be located inside the location where early voting takes place, and must be closed whenever early voting is closed.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Stricter identification rules are established for applying for absentee ballots, stipulating a Georgia driver’s license or state-issued ID card. Failing either of those, the voter may supply a Social Security number or other forms of ID, but these latter are tightly regulated. Since the state undertakes no obligation to provide each citizen with such an ID, the new rules will inevitably disadvantage poorer people, including people of color.

There is much more in this massive bill, but you get the idea: the legislature wants to make it harder to vote, most particularly for people of color.

More than a century ago, White Supremacist Democrats surged by force and fraud into complete dominance across the South. The result was the legal foundation for White Supremacy: literacy tests for voters backed up by the so-called “grandfather clause,” which excused Whites from the literacy test if they could show that their father or grandfather had voted before 1865. The racially exclusive Democratic primary gave rise to the Democratic “Solid South” that was the foundation of Democratic power nationally right up to the 1960s.

The South and the Nation have changed in a century, but not completely. After the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, White Supremacists across the South migrated to the Republican Party. We now have a Republican “Solid South.” We don’t much hear the open, virulent racism that was common in 1898, but the basic agenda has not changed. Instead of lynchings, they rely on police brutality. Instead of grandfather clauses and literacy tests, they rely on manipulating voting rules in ways that disproportionately affect minorities. And they do accept substantial numbers of Black voters and office-holders.

impeachment unavoidable

In this sense, the “place” of Blacks has changed for the better, economically as well as politically. But by fraud and by force, Southern Whites will still fight if their control is threatened, as we see now in Georgia and across the South. 

Racial oppression is still the original sin of our society. The journey to redemption is long.

John Peeler