There has been no shortage of hysteria surrounding the recent law signed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp concerning ballot integrity and voting revisions in his state. This follows a contentious election and even more confounding runoff contests. President Biden has been at the forefront of the misinformation, offering wildly inaccurate details while claiming this new law is "Jim Crow on Steroids." This has inspired a number of corporations to come out in opposition, most displaying their ignorance of a law they have not read.
Adding to the intentional misleading information is The New York Times, as they offered what is supposedly an authoritative assessment of the law's contents, but what is in reality bordering on agitprop. This widely-shared article is filled not with sober readings of the law but supposition and accusatory motives. You get the sense from the subheading on what their approach to the matter will be: "The New York Times analyzed the state’s new 98-page voting law and identified 16 key provisions that will limit ballot access, potentially confuse voters and give more power to Republican lawmakers."
Following their layout, here is the point-by-point rundown of how they are misleading on the law.
The Georgia Law: [Voting dates] Not earlier than 78 days or less than 11 days prior to the date of the primary or election, or runoff of either, in which the elector desires to vote, any absentee elector may make, either by mail, by facsimile transmission, by electronic transmission, or in person in the registrar’s or absentee ballot clerk’s office, an application for an official ballot of the elector’s precinct to be voted at such primary, election, or runoff.
The New York Times: As with many of the provisions in the law, these address the steps taken and standards permitted in a Covid-induced scenario last year.
"Georgia has cut by more than half the period during which voters may request an absentee ballot, from nearly six months before an election to less than three,'' laments The Times, ignoring that the 11 day window for mail in votes is actually shorter than last year's, when ballots had to be mailed by October 5. Then the paper slides into supposition mode.
"This will almost certainly reduce the number of people who seek absentee ballots and the number of people who vote. In the last presidential election, 1.3 million Georgians voted with absentee ballots. Of those who returned absentee ballots in 2020, 65 percent voted for Joseph R. Biden Jr. and 34 percent chose Donald J. Trump."
The paper wants to maintain the same loosened standards made in a rare-case election last year, for rather obvious reasons.
The Law: [Voter ID] In order to confirm the identity of the voter, such form shall require the elector to provide his or her name, date of birth, address as registered, address where the elector wishes the ballot to be mailed, and the number of his or her Georgia driver’s license or identification card issued … If such elector does not have a Georgia driver’s license or identification card … the elector shall affirm this fact in the manner prescribed in the application and the elector shall provide a copy of a form of identification …
The Times: Little surprise, the paper objects to this provision of mandating a voter ID.
"This is virtually certain to limit access to absentee voting. The law also creates pitfalls for voters: If they fail to follow all the new steps, like printing a date of birth or in some cases including partial Social Security numbers, their ballots could be tossed out. Stringent voter-ID laws in other states have depressed voting mostly among people of color."
Understand what is being said here; the same folks who loudly bray about voter integrity and preserving the sanctity of that right also oppose these steps to ensure that the person voting is who they claim to be. Allowing fraudulent voting is what damages voter integrity.
The Law: [Absentee Ballots not sent automatically] Neither the Secretary of State, election superintendent, board of registrars, other governmental entity, nor employee or agent thereof shall send absentee ballot applications directly to any elector except upon request of such elector or a relative authorized to request an absentee ballot for such elector.
The Times: This peels back the automatic mailing of ballots to all voters. Here The Times only sees nefarious motives.
"With the loss of automatically mailed applications, some voters will invariably not request ballots, since the applications also served as a reminder to people that they were eligible to vote."
No mention is made of the fraud and errors that this practice led to in numerous states last year.
"The new law also forbids third-party groups to prefill applications for voters, which made applying for an absentee ballot easier for many voters."
It also made ballot harvesting and fraudulent voting easier for many manipulators.
The Law: [Dropbox Voting] A board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk may establish additional drop boxes … but may only establish additional drop boxes totaling the lesser of either one drop box for every 100,000 active registered voters in the county or the number of advance voting locations in the county. Any additional drop boxes shall be evenly geographically distributed by population in the county.
The Times: Here is another detail that The Times elects to pretend was not a result of last year's emergency provisions. Widespread dropbox use was a pandemic response, not a permanent new voting standard.
"For the 2020 election, there were 94 drop boxes across the four counties that make up the core of metropolitan Atlanta: Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett. The new law limits the same four counties to a total of, at most, 23 drop boxes."
The paper ignores the provision that states an electoral board or a ballot clerk can request more. Also, a lowered dropbox amount may be the result of a rise in early-voting locations.
The Law: [Mobile Polling Places] The superintendent of a county or the governing authority of a municipality shall have discretion to procure and provide portable or movable polling facilities of adequate size for any precinct; provided, however, that buses and other readily movable facilities shall only be used in emergencies declared by the Governor
The Times: Listen to the hostility towards this decision.
"Georgia has now outlawed this practice, unless the governor declares a state of emergency to allow it — something that Mr. Kemp, a Republican, is unlikely to do, given that it could increase voter turnout in Atlanta."
This is some weapons-grade projection, as the paper is all but assured of what Kemp will do. This decision entails the grand total of TWO rolling polling facilities. These were used last year, again, in a pandemic emergency scenario. This also completely negates the Times' claim here, as Governor Kemp allowed for their use.
The Law: [Early Voting Dates, Times] There shall be a period of advance voting on the fourth Monday immediately prior to each primary or election: Voting shall be conducted beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. on weekdays, other than observed state holidays, during such period and shall be conducted on the second and third Saturdays during the hours of 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. and, if the registrar or absentee ballot clerk so chooses, the second Sunday, the third Sunday, or both the second and third Sundays prior to a primary or election during the hours determined by the registrar or absentee ballot clerk, but no longer than 7 a.m. through 7 p.m.
The Times: This has been one of the widely misrepresented changes, including President Biden claiming the Georgia law stops polls from being open past 5:00 pm. The Times does not help this situation out, as it supports that claim.
"These new strict rules on early voting hours are likely to curtail voting access for Georgians who work daytime hours or have less flexible schedules and who may be unable to return an absentee ballot."
They write this before providing evidence to the contrary. The law provides for more early voting dates, and that 5:00 pm deadline -- which is only listed for early-voting dates, not on Election Day -- can be pushed to 7:00 pm at the discretion of local officials.
The Times then debases itself by playing the race card, using selective language to make their accusation.
They write that the law does not require early voting on Sundays, claiming this, "would be limiting ballot access for parishioners at Black churches that have often organized parishioners to vote after Sunday services."
They are intentionally omitting the specifics allowing for exactly this to happen.
The Law - Voting shall be conducted, if the registrar or absentee ballot clerk so chooses, the second Sunday, the third Sunday, or both the second and third Sundays prior to a primary or election during the hours determined by the registrar or absentee ballot clerk.
It speaks volumes that The Times resorts to this base hysteria to make a point.
The Law: [Water Restriction] No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector, nor shall any person solicit signatures for any petition, nor shall any person, other than election officials discharging their duties, establish or set up any tables or booths on any day in which ballots are being cast
The Times: This is the infamous "making drinking water at the polls illegal" claim, pushed by President Biden, and numerous others.
The Times referenced this at the opening; "Another provision makes it a crime to offer water to voters waiting in lines, which tend to be longer in densely populated communities."
So, instead of correcting this blatant misrepresentation they chose to reinforce it. The law as written makes it clear that third parties are restricted from offering anything to voters, including food and drink, within 150 feet of a polling place. This is a law that exists in many states. People are free to bring their own water. Poll workers can offer water, water fountains, and/or tables with water bottles. This has been a joke of an argument, and The Times does little to clear up this facet.
The Law: [Precinct Changes] If the person presents himself or herself at a polling place in the county in which he or she is registered to vote, but not at the precinct at which he or she is registered to vote, the poll officials shall inform the person of the polling location for the precinct where such person is registered to vote. The poll officials shall also inform such person that any votes cast by a provisional ballot in the wrong precinct will not be counted unless it is cast after 5 p.m. and before the regular time for the closing of the polls on the day of the primary, election, or runoff.
The Times: The report complains over the closing of precincts and how this leads to confusion for some voters, and the problems potentially seen with provisional votes is an unfair advantage. No mention is made of the remedy being longer early voting dates and times.
The Times heavily implies that this is done to disenfranchise Democrat voters, as nearly 65 percent of provisional ballots were for Biden.
The numbers show this is hardly a fruitful plot. In November Biden received 7,100 provisional votes, and this allegedly dastardly plan would affect a percentage of that small total. For a sense of balance, Trump lost out on a greater number of votes by having Libertarian Jo Jorgenson on the ballot, as he took in over 62,000 votes.
The Law: [Emergency Extended Hours] Poll hours at a precinct may be extended only by order of a judge of the superior court of the county in which the precinct is located upon good cause shown by clear and convincing evidence that persons were unable to vote at that precinct during a specific period or periods of time. Poll hours shall not be extended longer than the total amount of time during which persons were unable to vote at such precinct. Any order extending poll hours at a precinct beyond 9 p.m. shall be by written order with specific findings of fact supporting such extension.
The Times: "This is a small change," admits the paper, "but it could have a significant impact on whether voting hours can be extended in the event of a problem."
What this boils down to is if an unforeseen problem comes up the polls can only be opened an extended amount of time in line with the time lost due to that delay. This is done to prevent activist judges from arbitrarily ruling polls can stay open well beyond the times lost.
The Law: [Times For Vote Counts] At least three persons who are registrars, deputy registrars, poll workers, or absentee ballot clerks shall be present at all times while the absentee ballot envelopes are being opened and the absentee ballots are being scanned. However, no person shall tally, tabulate, estimate, or attempt to tally, tabulate, or estimate or cause the ballot scanner or any other equipment to produce any tally or tabulate, partial or otherwise, of the absentee ballots cast until the time for the closing of the polls on the day of the primary, election, or runoff except as provided in this Code section.
The Times: At issue is a complaint that no votes can be counted before the polls are closed, which has always been the case.
"No ballots can be counted until the polls close, meaning the process of tabulating and reporting vote totals is likely to be lengthy for high-turnout contests. That could lead future candidates to follow Mr. Trump’s lead in trying to contest the results of a legitimate election."
The complaint: The New York Times pretends that no Democrats ever have, or ever will complain about the voting results of a legitimate election. (Required: Ignoring The House recently contemplating overturning the certified election in Iowa's 2nd district.)
The Law: [Third Party Donations] No superintendent shall take or accept any funding, grants, or gifts from any source other than from the governing authority of the county or municipality, the State of Georgia, or the federal government. The State Election Board shall study and report to the General Assembly a proposed method for accepting donations intended to facilitate the administration of elections and a method for an equitable distribution of such donations state wide by October 1, 2021.
The Times: There is no curiosity found from The Times on this matter of potential influence.
"Many local election jurisdictions in Georgia, particularly those in poorer urban areas, turned to outside philanthropic groups like the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonprofit organization funded by Mark Zuckerberg that helped counties pay for their elections in 2020."
They see no potential problem or conflict of interest, after Zuckerberg's platform had banned President Trump, and other tech companies deplatforming the social media outlet Parler. Despite resorting to speculation throughout this venture they now condemn such speculation.
"Conspiracy theories in right-wing circles have long focused on the specter of nefarious outsiders swaying election operations with donations; the theories often involve anti-Semitic falsehoods about George Soros, the billionaire liberal donor, who is also Jewish."
The Law: [Voting Hotline] The Attorney General shall have the authority to establish and maintain a telephone hotline for the use of electors of this state to file complaints and allegations of voter intimidation and illegal election activities. Such hotline shall, in addition to complaints and reports from identified persons, also accept anonymous tips regarding voter intimidation and election fraud.
The Times: It almost sounds like The Times likes this idea.
"Placing that responsibility within the attorney general’s office may help remove partisan influence to actions that are taken in response to complaints, but voting rights groups say it could serve as an intimidation tactic. And attorneys general themselves could bring their own partisan influence."
This means while generally seeing this as a positive move they still have to find an issue. For this to be a problem, we need to believe that in the previous arrangement, what the paper described as "a web of officials," no one had operated in a partisan manner.
The Law: [Election Board Creation] There is created the State Election Board, to be composed of a chairperson elected by the General Assembly, an elector to be elected by a majority vote of the Senate of the General Assembly, an elector to be elected by a majority vote of the House of Representatives of the General Assembly, and a member of each political party to be nominated and appointed in the manner provided in this Code section. No person while a member of the General Assembly shall serve as a member of the board.
The Times: With some of the conflicts seen in the last election the state has decided to portion out some of the control, moving it from a solitary officer -- the Secretary of State -- to a board. This would sound like a more reasonable way of coming up with problem resolution, but not for The Times.
"It also looks an awful lot like a revenge move: Republican lawmakers are taking power away from Mr. Raffensperger, who infuriated Mr. Trump and some G.O.P. leaders in the state by rebuffing the former president’s fraud claims."
Unspoken - Brad Raffensberger is also a Republican. So have the past four Secretaries of State, including the current Governor, Brian Kemp. The Times is condemning the GOP takeover of power from...the GOP.
The Law: [Limit On SoS] The Secretary of State shall be an ex officio nonvoting member of the board. Three voting members of the board shall constitute a quorum, and no vacancy on the board shall impair the right of the quorum to exercise all the powers and perform all the duties of the board.
The Times: "This is a more direct attack on the powers of the secretary of state, effectively eliminating that person’s voice on the State Election Board."
Here is another aspect cited as a dire takeover by the GOP. They are in fact replacing an elected GOP officer with a board of elected GOP officers.
The Law: [Local Precinct Oversight] The State Election Board may suspend county or municipal superintendents and appoint an individual to serve as the temporary superintendent in a jurisdiction.
The Times: Calling this, "Another powerplay by Republican state lawmakers," The Times is eventually forced to admit there is a standard in place.
"The law does state that the bar for suspension is high: either a minimum of three clear violations of State Election Board rules, or 'demonstrated nonfeasance, malfeasance, or gross negligence in the administration of the elections' in two consecutive elections."
Sounds reasonable, unless the complaint is they are aware that those officials in violation are frequently Democrat Party members, which I am certain they do not want to declare.
The Law: [New Runoff Dates] In instances where no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, a run-off primary, special primary runoff, run-off election, or special election runoff between the candidates receiving the two highest numbers of votes shall be held. Unless such date is postponed by a court order, such runoff shall be held on the twenty-eighth day after the day of holding the preceding general or special primary or general or special election.
The Times: There are some concerns with this, but these are more of an operational challenge than an example of power-grabbing.
"While the bill states that early voting for a runoff should begin 'as early as possible,' it does not specifically require weekend voting."
Like many of the complaints from The Times, they are noting what is not required, rather than what is being prevented. Weekend voting is still permissible. The main complaint we see here is actually with ballots from out of the country.
"Shortening the runoff time will also affect both early voting and military and overseas voters. Additionally, federal election law states that ballots for military and overseas voters must be mailed out 45 days before an election, so those voters will now receive ranked-choice general-election ballots rather than second, separate ballots for the runoff."
This does present a problem -- for the GOP. Overseas and military voters are traditionally Republican-weighted, so this is a move that could actually hurt the party accused of slanting the election.
Conclusion: Under analysis this new voting law in Georgia does not present anything as dire and obsessive as the claims being made. For all of the "Jim Crow" accusations and loud claims of vote suppression this new law provides more early voting days, more weekend voting days, and expanded times possible -- the only things actually being limited are practices put in place as emergency measures last year. You can all relax, water is not banned.
The New York Times wants to posture as if they are arriving to clarify all of the offensive decisions; what they are doing instead is fueling the disinformation that is flying around about Georgia's new voting law.