While the Republican-controlled Legislature in Georgia has made drastic changes to its voter laws that it make it harder to vote, the Alabama Legislature has done relatively little.
The only major change so far Alabama Republicans have proposed — although not the only one — is to ban curbside voting. This is a needless restriction that prevents actions that could make it easier for the handicapped to vote, but it doesn’t really change the status quo.
Alabama Republicans, of course, have no real desire to change the status quo. They have a supermajority of the Legislature and all statewide elected offices. Alabama hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Georgia, however, is different. In Georgia, Donald Trump narrowly lost the 2020 presidential race to Joe Biden, and then the two Republican senators lost their runoff elections to their Democratic opponents, flipping control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrats.
It is impossible to imagine any of the voting changes the Georgia Legislature has enacted being passed had Republicans not lost those races. Changing election laws in Georgia would be as much of a non-issue as it is here in Alabama.
Many of the changes Georgia Republicans have enacted simply come across as sour grapes. Georgia’s secretary of state did his job, without giving in to pressure from Trump and Trump’s supporters. He said he found no voting irregularities that would change the election outcome, and subsequent investigations have backed him up.
So, the Georgia Legislature has stripped him of some of his powers.
“On Thursday, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) of Georgia signed the most far-reaching effort yet into law — a sweeping voting measure that undercuts the power of the secretary of state and local election boards,” according to the Washington Post account. “The new law removes the secretary of state from serving as chair of the State Board of Elections, giving the Legislature the authority to appoint a majority of the members, and authorizes the state board to suspend local election officials.”
In addition, the new voting law further restricts absentee voting and early voting.
One provision of the law even makes it a crime for anyone to give food or water to people waiting in line to vote. This provision has received a lot of attention because of its perceived vindictiveness. The supposed justification for the ban on giving waiting voters food and water is to further enforce a ban on campaigning at polling sites. But if that is the real concern, then why not simply ban volunteers handing out food and water from wearing campaign slogans on their clothing or engaging in other electioneering?
Better still, why not do something about the long lines, which will only get longer with more restrictions on absentee and early voting?
The answer is, this is not really about the integrity of the vote at all; it’s about making voting more difficult because Republicans mistakenly believe that is the best way they can win.
Republicans are re-fighting the last election instead of looking forward to the next. A more sensible strategy, for example, might be to target some of the Hispanic voters in areas where Trump made some inroads in the last election.
It’s simply a defeatist attitude for Republicans to assume they can’t do well among the poor and minorities, and when it drives incumbent Republicans to enact laws that disproportionately make it harder for the poor and minorities to vote, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.