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Hysteria: Several Widely-Repeated Attacks on Georgia's New Voting Law Are False or Misleading

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

We dealt with this issue on Friday when we dismantled President Biden's embarrassing and shameful demagoguery smearing new elections laws in states like Georgia and Iowa as worse than Jim Crow.  On this score, Karl Rove's latest Wall Street Journal op/ed was particularly salient, pointing out facts and asking questions that puncture quite a lot of hysterical Democratic talking points whizzing around social media, amplified by many in the news media.  Let's recap a few important facts in Georgia -- ground zero for the dishonest meltdown: The new legislation expands early voting in most of the state, gives flexibility to counties to help reduce waiting times to vote (including the ability to adjust deployment of polling places and machines), and includes a popular provision to help ensure absentee ballot integrity.  Voter ID, relentlessly assailed as "voter suppression" by lefty activists, enjoys very broad support, including in Georgia.  Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:


The relevant question asks, "do you support or oppose requiring voters to provide a copy of their photo ID or other documentation in order to cast an absentee ballot by mail?"  Almost exactly three-quarters of respondents said yes, including nearly two-thirds of black voters.  Opposition is a narrow position, held by nearly all elected Democrats and many of their allies in the press.  McLaughlin also wrote about one of the claims that has spread like wildfire -- namely, that voters standing in long lines are now banned from receiving water while they wait.  False:

Let’s take a look at what S.B. 202 actually says: "No person shall solicit votes [or] 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 [a voter] … This Code section shall not be construed to prohibit a poll officer…from making available self-service water from an unattended receptacle to [a voter] waiting in line to vote."  The parts in bold are what S.B. 202 added to the statute. The prohibition applies inside polling places, within 150 feet of a polling place, or “within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place.” Now, first of all, notice what is not prohibited here. Voters can still bring bottled water or other food or beverages with them to stand on line to vote, as people often do when waiting at Disney World or to buy concert tickets or in other public places where people stand on long lines. Voters can still also, if they like, order food; the bill doesn’t stop the Domino’s Pizza man or the local hot dog cart or taco truck from doing business. And if you feel impelled to donate food and drink to voters, you can still do that, too; you just have to give it to the poll workers so they can put it out for general use. The president’s claim that “You can’t provide water for people about to vote” is just false. What you cannot do under the new Georgia law is deploy people in National Rifle Association t-shirts and MAGA hats to hand out free Koch-brothers-financed, Federalist Society–branded pizza to voters.

The law explicitly allows poll workers or election officials to make water available to voters in long lines, a problem that counties are now afforded more options to help mitigate. The freakout over the refreshment 'issue,' a talking point that instantly became ubiquitous, is vastly overblown. The new Georgia legislation effectively mirrors what numerous other states already have in place, including in the famous vote-suppressing, right-wing hell-scape of...New York:

As Rove asked repeatedly in his piece, will activists and journalists howl "Jim Crow" over the multiple blue states whose elections laws are extremely similar to, or more restrictive than, what places like Georgia and Iowa have adopted?  It's a rhetorical question, of course.  Most of the leading shouters know that their apocalyptic rhetoric doesn't even come close to matching the substance of what was signed into law, but they see utility in aggressively lying about it anyway.  By melting down and spreading wild misinformation, they know they will actually boost turnout among their supporters.  "Voter suppression" claims often increase turnout among groups who are supposedly victimized by Republican-passed election laws.  I also wonder if there isn't a secondary strategy afoot to have Republicans defend the law with specifics, which might frustrate and demoralize conservative voters who will be upset to hear that the supposed crackdown is actually far more mild than advertised, and may therefore consider it insufficient window dressing.  All it takes is a small slice of right-wing voters to sit at home for Democrats to win in Georgia, as we painfully learned in the January Senate runoffs.  GOP Senate candidates won more votes than their Democratic opponents in November, but when the runoffs rolled around, the Left turned out in force, while a critical number of Trump supporters were convinced that the system was rigged and didn't show up.  Result: Two narrow losses for Republicans, and a Democrat-controlled Senate.  


If leftists can convince their base that Jim Crow-style "suppression" is being inflicted on their state, while also forcing fact-checks that might annoy the opposing base, that's a win-win, from their perspective.  The media's job should be to convey accurate information and expose misinformation, but many in the political press have swallowed whole their allies' frantic deceptions, as is so often the case.  Here is Georgia elections official Gabriel Sterling refusing to go along with CNN's premise that this "voter suppression law" is all rooted in Republican deceit and cynicism.  He reminds the anchor that Democrats engaged in destabilizing, confident-eroding conspiracies after the 2018 election (they've been rewarded for doing so by their friends in the media ever since), while it was Trump and Republicans who were guilty in 2020.  The new law, he points out, was going to be attacked as "Jim Crow 2.0" regardless of what was actually passed, as evidenced by the fact that activists had disseminated that toxic talking point in advance:


When Sterling was standing up to President Trump and issuing fact-checks that called out members of his own party, he became a cult figure on the Left, with media amplifying his truth-telling.  The tweet above, which links to a video in which he lays bare Democrats' hypocrisy and mendacity while sharing facts about the new law, barely registered a blip.  It's almost as if many of Sterling's erstwhile fans aren't terribly interested in his content if it doesn't confront their preferred targets.  Here are the Journal's editors painstakingly correcting the record even further, amidst a blizzard of phony outrage and disinformation:

Georgia’s new law leaves in place Sunday voting, a point of contention with earlier proposals, given that black churches have a “souls to the polls” tradition after services. The Legislature, rather, decided to expand weekend early voting statewide, by requiring two Saturdays instead of only one under current law. In total, Georgia offers three weeks of early voting, which began last year on Oct. 12. This is not exactly restrictive: Compare that with early voting that started Oct. 24 last year in New York. The new law also leaves in place no-excuses absentee voting. Every eligible Georgia voter will continue to be allowed to request a mail ballot for the sake of simple convenience—or for no reason at all. Again, this is hardly restrictive: More than a dozen states, including Connecticut and Delaware, require mail voters to give a valid excuse...The law makes ballot drop boxes a permanent part of Georgia’s voting architecture. The terms are tighter than they were during last year’s pandemic emergency, but how is it part of “Jim Crow 2.0” to give absentee voters more options than they had in 2019? The legislation also says applications for mail ballots are due 11 days before the election, instead of four days. If that’s racist, so is the U.S. Postal Service, which urges voters to allow 15 days for two-way delivery...No election rules are perfect. Ballot access, integrity and administration are all important. Mr. Biden knows this. Democrats aren’t smearing Georgia because they believe their “Jim Crow” nonsense. Their strategy is to play the race card to justify breaking the Senate filibuster, so they can jam through their election reform known as H.R.1 and overrule 50 state voting laws.

I'm not going to endorse or defend every single sentence of the new law, and Governor Kemp should have had better situational awareness than to sign the bill with such stupid optics, but contrast those facts with the breathless hysteria being hyped across social and traditional media.  The gap is astonishing. I'll leave you with this:

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