There is an old saying that, In politics, perception is reality.
Major League Baseball has decided to move this year's All Star game out of Georgia, because of the perception that the Georgia Legislature approved voter suppression legislation this year.
Cobb County estimates that we will lose as much as $100 million of economic activity. Now that Major League Baseball has set this precedent, it is possible that other organizations and corporations will follow suit, and the Atlanta region and State of Georgia could lose other events as a result of this legislation.
It is even possible that some major companies with headquarters or other major facilities in the Atlanta area, might decide to relocate or downsize their operations here. And if the Legislature decides to commit economic suicide, by retaliating against Delta Airlines for speaking out based on their perception that this was voter suppression legislation, Delta could decide to move its headquarters and some of its operations to less hostile territory. And if Delta, or another corporation were to move some or all of their operations out of Georgia, others could follow.
If we were to objectively evaluate the legislation, much of what Governor Kemp said in defense of the legislation is probably true. The legislation actually increased early voting opportunities. Furthermore, Georgia has more generous early voting opportunities than many other states, including states that are being praised for their early voting opportunities, even though those states are allowing less early voting than Georgia.
Georgia had drop boxes for absentee ballots for the first time in 2020, but those occurred only because of emergency authorizations due to the covid pandemic. Without the new law, no drop boxes would be authorized anywhere in Georgia in future elections. So, technically, the new law provides for more dropboxes in the future, than were allowed by the prior law.
But that's not the whole story. And there are reasons why many people perceive the new legislation as voter suppression.
Why do there have to be fewer dropboxes than there were in 2020? What are the chances that some counties will use this legislation to place the dropboxes where they will be most accessible to white Republicans, and less accessible to minority voters? Is that the intention of this legislation? Maybe not. Does this legislation make that possible? Probably.
I wonder how extending voter ID to absentee voting will pan out. When Georgia passed its voter ID laws 15 years ago or so, they claimed that they excluded absentee voting from the voter ID requirement because there was never any fraud with absentee voting. It was always obvious that absentee voting presented the easiest path to committing voter fraud. The real reason that absentee voting was previously excluded from voter ID requirements, was because until 2020, far more Republicans voted absentee than Democrats.
Once we get past the pandemic, and goofy conspiracy theories, I wonder whether the restrictions on absentee voting will suppress more Republicans voters than Democrats?
The Republican attacks against automatic voter registration clearly helped to fuel the perception of voter suppression.
But the biggest reason that the new elections legislation is perceived as voter suppression is because it started with Conspiracy Theory Republicans falsely claiming there was widespread fraud in the November 2020 election, despite the overwhelming evidence that there was no widespread fraud. Republicans created the perception that they were out to avenge the results of the 2020 election. Republicans created the perception that they were going to legislate changes to assure that Republicans would not lose future elections.
Governor Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Duncan, and Secretary of State Raffensperger, were all attacked by Conspiracy Theory Republicans for having the audacity to uphold the results of a free and fair, and non-fraudulent election, and to uphold the Constitution of the United States. This Gang of Three at the audacity to refuse to fraudulently overthrow the legitimate results of the 2020 election.
It was in this context that Republicans committed to passing legislation to prevent a future repeat of 2020. That is what created the perception that this was voter suppression legislation.
Some of this year's election reform legislation is probably defensible. But Georgia is probably going to have to amend this legislation enough to remove the perception of voter suppression that Republicans themselves created.