By: The Editorial Board – wsj.com – March 26, 2021
Georgia’s new law leaves in place Sunday voting, a point of contention with earlier proposals, given that black churches have a “souls to the polls” tradition after services. The Legislature, rather, decided to expand weekend early voting statewide, by requiring two Saturdays instead of only one under current law. In total, Georgia offers three weeks of early voting, which began last year on Oct. 12. This is not exactly restrictive: Compare that with early voting that started Oct. 24 last year in New York.
The new law also leaves in place no-excuses absentee voting. Every eligible Georgia voter will continue to be allowed to request a mail ballot for the sake of simple convenience—or for no reason at all. Again, this is hardly restrictive: More than a dozen states, including Connecticut and Delaware, require mail voters to give a valid excuse.
So what does the Georgia law do? First, it gets rid of signature matching, so election workers aren’t trying to verify mail ballots by comparing John Hancocks. This subjective process should concern both sides. It creates avenues for contested outcomes, with fighting over ambiguous signatures. In 2018 about 2,400 ballots in Georgia were rejected for issues with the signature or oath, according to a recent paper in Political Research Quarterly. Those voters were 54% black.
Instead of signature matching, voters will submit a state ID number with their mail ballots or applications. This way there’s no arguing over handwriting: The ID number either matches or it doesn’t. Georgians who vote in person are already asked to show identification. Anyone who lacks an ID can get one for free.
The law says the state can suspend local election directors and appoint temporary replacements, which is painted as a plot against Democratic metropolitan areas. More likely it will be used on slipshod conduct in places like Floyd County, which last year initially overlooked some 2,600 ballots. The chief elections clerk was fired, but it’s hard to blame the state for wanting to head off similar trouble.
Much hay is being made about a provision that prevents third parties from giving gifts, including “food and drink” to those standing in line at the polls. But the point is to prevent activists from showing up in union shirts—or National Rifle Association shirts, for that matter—and passing out drinks and snacks, with some subtle electioneering thrown in.
As for the genuinely thirsty, the new law specifically allows poll workers to provide “self-service water from an unattended receptacle.” Also, the legislation recognizes that it’s a failure if voters stand in line long enough to get parched. That’s why it says wait times at large precincts must be measured three times throughout Election Day. If the line hits an hour, changes are required before the next election.
The law makes ballot drop boxes a permanent part of Georgia’s voting architecture. The terms are tighter than they were during last year’s pandemic emergency, but how is it part of “Jim Crow 2.0” to give absentee voters more options than they had in 2019? The legislation also says applications for mail ballots are due 11 days before the election, instead of four days. If that’s racist, so is the U.S. Postal Service, which urges voters to allow 15 days for two-way delivery.
The runoff period will be shortened to four weeks. “The lengthy nine-week runoffs in 2020 were exhausting for candidates, donors, and electors,” lawmakers said in their findings. “By adding ranked choice voting for military and overseas voters, the run-off period can be shortened to a more manageable period.” This is politically touchy, since Democrats won two Senate runoffs on Jan. 5, but let’s hear the policy argument for nine-week runoffs, instead of ad hominem attacks.
No election rules are perfect. Ballot access, integrity and administration are all important. Mr. Biden knows this. Democrats aren’t smearing Georgia because they believe their “Jim Crow” nonsense. Their strategy is to play the race card to justify breaking the Senate filibuster, so they can jam through their election reform known as H.R.1 and overrule 50 state voting laws.
To see this article and subscribe to others like it, choose to read more.