Republicans calling the shots in Georgia didn’t even try to hide their voter suppression last week. It was right out in the open for all of America to see.
In areas likely to back Democrats, including south Cobb, there were hours-long lines at polling places, some of which opened late. There were not enough voting machines, voting machines malfunctioned, there were too few poll workers and many were poorly trained in how the new machines worked, there were insufficient back-up paper ballots, and many voters requesting absentee ballots never received them.
GOP leaders must be giddy as they contemplate the general election. With Georgia on the verge of turning blue, their primary dry run proved beyond doubt they’re prepared to win by hook or by crook. It was a stunningly audacious, even by their low standards, especially after what we saw in 2018, when the fix was also in.
There’s been a lot of hand wringing by Democrats and Republicans, seemingly to give state election officials the benefit of the doubt they don’t deserve.
We’ve seen is movie before and we know how it ends. Secretary of State Brian Kemp oversaw the 2018 gubernatorial election in which he ran and narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams after massive voting roll purges, a mysterious election server wipe, closed polling places statewide and other suppression tactics.
For the sake of appearances you’d think Republicans would at least try to present a façade of fairness this time around but you’d be mistaken. Fair is not how Gov. Kemp or his Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger roll, and it’s precisely why there needs to be Department of Justice oversight of elections here and elsewhere.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court conservatives did away with that provision in 2013, when they gutted the Voting Rights Act, opening the door to exactly these kind of abuses.
“The ACLU warned that insufficient resources were allocated for polling places, machines, in-person election staff, and staff to process absentee ballots and that this would result in the disenfranchisement of voters in 2020,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia. “It gives us no pleasure to be proven right.”
Raffensperger ignored those warnings and instead blamed county officials for the problems he created. Michael Thurman, the CEO of DeKalb County, which has a large minority population and experienced widespread suppression, said, “It is the Secretary of State’s responsibility to train, prepare, and equip election staff throughout the state to ensure fair and equal access to the ballot box.”
“It’s also unacceptable that the officials entrusted with administering the elections have spent the day dodging blame, rather than accepting responsibility,” added Aunna Dennis of Common Cause Georgia last Tuesday. “Today’s problems were avoidable — and they disenfranchised voters. That must not be allowed to happen again.”
Jacquelyn Bettadapur, chair of the Cobb Democratic Party, told the MDJ, “I believe that there was no preparation, no training. I think that they thought that the absentee ballot initiative would take the load off the precincts ... (and) early vote centers and they weren’t expecting as many people to show up. That was a bad assumption.”
“We knew there was a virus going on, we knew that we would have social distancing, we knew that people were getting absentee ballots and we knew that we couldn’t get poll workers,” said state Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Powder Springs). “So it’s just a matter of, we know this now. What are we going to do differently in November?”
How about nothing? To believe things will be different in November is to be naive.
Republican officials got away with it once, now twice. They’ll go for the trifecta in the general, and here’s why I believe that: Citing the Georgia primary disaster, last week presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden issued an ominous warning: “(President Trump is) going to try to steal this election. This is a guy who said that all mail-in ballots are fraudulent...while he sits behind the desk in the Oval Office and writes his mail-in ballot to vote in a primary.”
Trump can’t do it unless he has the help of states dominated by Republicans.
“In 2020 we are heading into a disaster, and it’s a very well-designed and intentional one,” said investigative journalist, author and voter suppression expert Greg Palast. “The Republicans thought it all through and tested it in Georgia and Wisconsin and elsewhere. In 2020 when Trump is up for re-election, this chaos will be everywhere.”
There is no more fundamental right than voting. Free and fair elections are why American men and women gave their lives on battlefields around the globe in defense of our cherished democratic freedoms. With their blatant voter suppression, Republican politicians make an obscene mockery of their sacrifice.
Despite the suppression, Democrats managed to cast more than 1 million primary ballots. They’ll also need to turn out in force come November.