Earlier this year, while covering the runoff campaigns for Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the Georgia Senate, I saw Democrats compete in not two, but three races. The third was the frantic, multifrontal effort to repel GOP attempts to suppress voters. Out-of-state conservative activists attempted (and largely failed) to disqualify hundreds of thousands of postal votes. Officials in most districts of Georgia tried (and mostly failed) to put in place new voting barriers. Democrats like Atlanta Representative Bee Nguyen ran around helping fix postal ballot papers with issues (like signature in the wrong place).
And Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who otherwise acted mostly fairly from November to January, insisted that he prosecute anyone who queues (an activity known as “line warming”) eat or drink the voters in those cold January elections Drinking provided a day, under state rules that forbid offering “gifts or bribes” to voters. “I have tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of pizza and scarves, and hot chocolate and water,” said Nsé Ufot, New Georgia project manager. “We’re going to bring these things to the Georgians – we’re preparing for a showdown.”
Ufot did it – and the Democrats won all three races. Warnock and Ossoff gave the Democrats their fragile Senate majority (backed by Vice President Kamala Harris) and the turnout hit record highs for a runoff election, despite the GOP throwing big, sharp tacks in the street along the way. Most significantly, in a reversal from previous runoff elections, where general elections have always declined sharply, black voter turnout declined only marginally – and less than whites’ turnout – thanks largely to early voting, and the youth election remained unexpectedly strong . Meanwhile, the turnout of Donald Trump’s white supporters fell the most, thanks largely to confused claims by the former president that GOP officials in Georgia ran a November election they rigged for Democrats.
Less than three months later, Trump’s fully exposed electoral fraud allegations ultimately won the day in Georgia. Although Republican civil servants insisted that the 2020 general election and 2021 runoff were unusually good and fair, the same officials passed new and more hideous election restrictions last week. “There is no doubt that there were many alarming problems with the handling of the elections and these problems understandably led to a crisis of confidence,” said Governor Brian Kemp as he signed the heinous bill.
But “these problems” and the “crisis of confidence” were entirely the product of Trump’s great lie. The embarrassed, twice-accused former president lost his campaign, but his unfounded grievances could help Georgia Republicans win their war on democracy in this rapidly diversifying and increasingly liberal state.
The worst features of the law? There are so many. “You are not doing this justice by pulling out individual parts,” warns the voting rights attorney Marc Elias, who is suing the repeal of the bill as unconstitutional, in particular because of its special effects on black voters.