On March 25th, two months after Georgia voted blue for the first time since 1992, the state’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, signed off on voting law changes enacted by Georgia’s legislature. Mr. Kemp and the GOP claim the new rules will make it “easier to vote” and eliminate malfeasance. Unsurprisingly, Democrats disagree. They argue the rules make voting in the Peach State more cumbersome, especially for minorities. Some Dems contend the new laws were implemented explicitly to suppress the black vote and are analogous to Jim Crow.
Immediately after Gov Kemp signed the bill into law, various civil rights organizations sued GA for violating the 14th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Various corporations also expressed their views via a chorus of generic statements expressing their “solidarity” with Georgia’s voters. Major League Baseball protested by moving its All-Star game from Atlanta to Denver, a bizarre decision. Denver is in Colorado, a state with more restrictive voting laws than Georgia.
The bill Governor Kemp signed into law is ~100 pages long. We are quite certain most people on both sides of the political aisle who were quick to offer their two cents on the bill did not read even two pages of the bill. Here is a quick summation of its key points.
• Less time to request an absentee ballot.
• Limits the number of drop boxes where people can return an absentee ballot.
• Makes it more difficult to cast a provisional ballot.
• Makes it illegal to hand out food and water to voters waiting in line.
• Expands the number of days for early voting.
• Requires large precincts to add machines and or staff.
• Shortens the length of time in a runoff vote.
• Enables the state election board to overrule country boards under specific circumstances.
• ID required to vote by mail.
The first four bullet points align with Democrats’ concerns regarding voter suppression. (Worth noting is that many states do not count provisional ballots at all). The GOP contends they help preserve the integrity of elections. We do not buy that argument. Cheating in elections is extraordinarily rare. When millions of people vote, it would be a statistical impossibility if there were not a few irregularities. That said, to cherry-pick specific instances of malfeasance and claim its representative of the general election process is simply untrue.
All citizens should have unfettered access to voting. The next two bullet points help to ensure that they do. More days for early voting, more staff, and more machines in large precincts all make voting easier. (Almost all large precincts are in urban areas, where a disproportionate number of voters lean left).
Bullet points 7 and 8 do not hinder, nor enhance, voter access.
As it relates to the issue of identification (bullet point 9), At TQC, we think requiring a state (or federally) issued ID card to cast a vote in person or by mail is reasonable and fair, not overly onerous, nor is it tantamount to restricting voting access. It should not have to be a driver’s license; that is unfair because some people do not drive. It should not have to be a passport because some people have no (other) reason to obtain one. Multiple forms of ID should not be required; that is onerous. If cost is an issue, the state should be required to provide an ID free of charge. That said, at TQC we support ID as a prerequisite to voting.
We appreciate the argument that ID should not be required because cheating rarely happens; however, requiring identification under the stipulations listed above will help maintain the perception of faith in the electoral system. That is imperative - now more than ever - and outweighs any potential inconvenience that comes with obtaining an ID that all citizens should have regardless.
Cause And (No) Effect
Most people believe (or assume) that there is a causal relationship between easier voting access and higher voter turnout, and vice versa. That is incorrect. Indeed, contrary to the consensus, exhaustive research demonstrates that making voting more difficult (or easier) does not have a material influence on voter turnout in either direction. Said Nate Cohn in the The NY Times, “surprisingly, expanding voting options to make it more convenient hasn’t seemed to have a huge effect on turnout or electoral outcomes.” Moral consequences aside, studies indicate doing so might very well have the opposite of the desired effect. Argued The Economist, “Even if the bill is intended to make voting harder for Democratic constituencies, it may well backfire. Democrats…have proved to be adept at using voter-suppression fears to motivate their base. Despite a steadily increasing number of states that require IDs, which opponents consider a suppressive measure, turnout in last year’s election was the highest in 120 years.”
Analog Rules In A Digital Age
A serious problem with our electoral process that lawmakers are not addressing is that in today’s digital age, people are still waiting in lines, snail mailing ballots, and or using pen and paper to vote in America. There is not a federally (or state) administered system(s) that enable people to vote seamlessly and safely, at home online.
At TQC, we refuse to accept that we can genetically de-code and create a vaccine for COVID-19 in less than a year, propel a missile to fly thousands of miles at supersonic speeds and hit a target with precision, unlock an iPhone with a thumbprint, send robots to Mars or have a robot named Alexa order us a pizza, but we cannot build a system to allow citizens to vote online.
The stark reality is that cheap and ubiquitous technology exists to both facilitate online voting and keep it protected from hackers. Unfortunately, politicians direct money to projects that get them (re)elected, not ones to facilitate an orderly election. That is regrettable. An orderly online voting system would yield a healthy return on investment.
First, it would enable and expand easy access to all people irrespective of race, ethnicity, disability, or political party. Second, productivity would improve. Millions of hours of time waiting in line would be no more. Instead, people could be working. Third, a digital system that (mostly) replaces pens, papers, and levers would improve the perception (and potential reality) that the electoral process is free, fair and devoid of partisan interference. After all, computers are apolitical and count better than people do. Both Democrats and Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for allocating no resources to address this.
Disclaimer: Not all citizens have access to the internet or a computer. Others might be uncomfortable using a new technology. For them and anybody else who prefers to vote by mail, or in person, those options should remain available.
End Note: The title of this week’s post, Georgia On My Mind, was designated the official Georgia state song in 1979. Unbeknownst to many, the tune was initially composed in 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell. Carmicheal went on to have a successful career in music and entertainment. Gorrell became a banker and never penned another lyric in his life. Released in 1960, Ray Charles’ version was the most commercially successful iteration and the one adopted by the Peach State. It reached #1 on Billboard. Rolling Stone anointed it the 44th best song of all time. Ronnie Hawkins & Willie Nelson also sang and recorded respective versions of this classic.