Rant: Limit absentee votes after primary success? That’s voter suppression. Plus today’s headlines.

Rant: Limit absentee votes after primary success? That’s voter suppression. Plus today’s headlines.

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RANT OF THE DAY: Stop the General Assembly’s Voter Suppression bill.

You knew it was coming. Given the overwhelming success of the primary absentee ballot push — in terms of voter health protection and turnout — some pencil head in the General Assembly would try to stop it from happening again.

According to Thursday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a House committee wants to stop Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — or anyone else for that matter — from sending voters absentee ballot applications. The idea: To add a few roadblocks to those hoping to continue to voting from home.

Raffensperger mass mailed more than 6.9 million applications earlier this year amid growing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The threat already had delayed one primary in Georgia and the health risk was growing, especially for one of the state’s most active voter bases — those of us 60 and older.

It was an unqualified success across the state and in Northwest Georgia. More than 1.1 million people voted by absentee. Hundreds of thousands of people avoided potential infection by voting either by mail or else delivering ballots in conveniently placed “drop boxes” in Georgia counties. Floyd County had two such boxes; Bartow had five.

But now voter suppressionists in the state House are whining about long voter lines on June 9, alleged voter fraud opportunities and a late vote count as their reasons to prevent another mass mailing. Heck, we’re used to late vote counts in Floyd County so what’s the issue? Never mind that Georgia is recording a surge in new coronavirus cases each day this week and we have runoff elections on Aug. 11 as well as a general election on Nov. 3.

Georgia law allows any voters to request an absentee ballot but this bill would require them to initiate the absentee voting process rather than fill out a form that arrived in the mailbox, reports the AJC. Voters would have to download an absentee ballot request form and return it to their county election office or they could apply through an absentee ballot request website that Raffensperger is creating.

The AJC presents two opinions on the push:

  • One against: “This bill seeks to make voting by mail harder,” said Minority Leader Bob Trammell, a Democrat from Luthersville. “It takes away one of the successes
    of the primary — despite numerous failures on election day — which was the increased participation in vote by mail.”
  • One in favor: “This does not in any way prevent anyone from asking for an absentee ballot or voting absentee,” said House Governmental Affairs Chairman Shaw
    Blackmon, a Republican from Bonaire. “All this says is that we’re not going to flood … this with unsolicited absentee ballots so that we actually create some problems for our counties.”

So where does Raffensperger stand on this? Again, from the AJC:

  • “Voters on both sides of the political spectrum agree that sending absentee applications to all active voters was the safest and best thing our office could do to protect our voters at the peak of COVID-19. Some seem to be saying that our office should have ignored the wave of absentee voting that was clearly coming.”

And late in the story, you read the real cause for this push. In the primary, 76,000 more Democratic Party voters cast absentee ballots than Republican Party voters. Some 600,000 voters requested Democratic ballots, 524,000 sought Republican ballots and 26,000 cast nonpartisan ballots.

Imagine what that would mean in the fall election, even though we would be using an open ballot and not a primary with by-party elections. Let’s see… we wonder who sought to influence Republican voters to avoid absentees — and who continues to do so.

This is a blatant attempt to suppress Georgia voters — especially amid a coronavirus epidemic that is picking up speed once again. Remember, this isn’t the feared second wave of the outbreak; we’re still in the opening round. The next wave isn’t expected until fall — which is when absentee ballots would be most important.

We’re in the final 48 hours of the 2020 General Assembly. Here’s hoping this attempt to stop the vote never gets to a final vote.

 


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