Not precisely what Ray Charles had on his mind, but apropos nonetheless.
Corporate citizens always have had a significant voice in American politics. Indeed, corporations have had a much more impactful voice than merely supporting or opposing this or that particular piece of legislation. Corporate political action committees and corporate contributions flowing to politicians ever since the Supreme Court decided the Citizens United case have generally served Republicans quite well. However, adverse and vocal corporate reaction to the sad Georgia election reform law has infuriated the once Grand Old Party. So, the sudden and swift indignation of Republican politicians and their hosanna media chorus deriding corporations that have taken a strident stand against the so-called Georgia election reform law is almost laughable.
The previous guy’s call for a boycott of those companies that have spoken out against Georgia’s Republican election reform law represents a new low in American political temperament. The so-called election reform law has been conjured to rectify a problem that never existed; “a problem” that was conceived as a political strategy long before the 2020 presidential election. That strategy has served no purpose other than to divide America further and energize an incredibly ugly movement, the manifestation of which was the tragic and deadly spectacle that unfolded on January 6th, primarily promoted and encouraged by the previous guy.
The previous guy and the political party still in thrall to him are masters of plausible deniability. They have convinced themselves, and a surprising number of others, that the so-called Georgia election reform law is designed to encourage legal voting and discourage illegal voting, even though no meaningful illegal voting occurred in the last election. Indeed, the drafters of the law threw in some shiny plausible-deniability objects that would allow them to say, “See, we’re for making it easier, not more difficult to vote.” Many talking heads on the right, and those who take their cues from them, have fallen for it hook, line and sinker.
The Georgia Republican legislators knew precisely what provisions they wanted to get rid of, and they were happy to throw in some liberalized voting provisions in order to jettison the voting issues they had come to loathe during the 2020 election contretemps engineered by the previous guy.
Don’t be fooled by the shiny objects. The new law is intended, among other affronts, to make it more difficult for an honest election overseer to do his or her job when doing that job might restrict state politicians’ partisan whims.
For example, perhaps, the most serious objective on the Republican list of do-overs was stripping the elected Secretary of State, Republican Brad Raffensperger (or any future Secretary of State elected by the people), of election oversight responsibility as Chair of the State Election Board. The Republican General Assembly has now delegated that responsibility to someone selected by, well, themselves.
Raffensperger, a solid and honest Republican, drew a line in the sand by refusing to bow to the demands of the previous guy who telephoned him to demand that he “find another 11,780 votes” with which to steal the election away from Joe Biden. Stripping the elected Secretary of State of that oversight responsibility was the biggy for those drafting the new Georgia election law. They were more than willing to throw in any number of shiny objects to get that done. The Republicans in the General Assembly don’t ever again want someone to have such election oversight authority who doesn’t owe their allegiance to them.
Then there was the problem of those damn, pesky drop boxes, another biggy that made it too convenient for voters to cast their ballots. So, the so-called election reform law limits the number of drop boxes to only one, either at a designated early voting site or one for every 100,000 voters in a county, whichever is smaller.
Under the new Georgia law, only people requesting mail-in ballots can receive them, whereas other states provide mail-in ballots and leave it up to the voter to determine whether to vote in person or to mail in their ballot.
Furthermore, under the new Georgia law, no mail-in ballots can be sent to voters until the last 29 days before an election. That almost cuts in half the time previously allotted for mail-in ballots to be distributed, completed, and returned. The uncertainty of timely mail delivery, especially during high mail traffic periods, makes this new restriction problematic. The time consumed for a ballot to reach a voter and the time consumed in returning the ballot through the mails could seriously limit the time a voter has to consider their voting decisions. This would be especially true when there are many offices or referenda issues to be decided.
In the last election, run-off contests were pivotal in Georgia, with voters turning out two Republicans and ushering in two Democrats. So, the General Assembly severely restricted future early voting for run-off elections from a minimum three-week period to a single Monday through Friday interval.
Then, there’s what might be called the no water for the thirsty provision. Under established Georgia law, no electioneering is allowed “within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established.” That, of course, means no literature can be handed out closer than at that point, nor can posters or placards be displayed supporting any particular candidate or any final plea to vote for this or that candidate. Fair enough.
Under the new Georgia law, however, no one can even offer a bottle of water to a voter who, perhaps, has been waiting in line for hours to vote. Under the new law, water may only be provided by the polling place’s voting authorities, but no polling place will be required to have water on hand for thirsty voters. Now, one could accept such a restriction if it simply prohibited water bottles with partisan political labels from being handed out and carried into the voting place, but simply banning water—please!
While one might feel somewhat sad for Georgia, on balance, things are looking up. In 2016, twenty-two percent of Georgia’s eligible voters were not registered. Last year, thanks mainly to Stacey Abrams’ efforts, only two percent of Georgia’s eligible voters are still not registered. Also, while much of the state is stagnating, Atlanta and its suburbs are growing, adding young vitality to the state.
I have a somewhat more nuanced view of Major League Baseball moving the All-Star game out of Atlanta. More than likely, MLB simply wanted to avoid the spectacle of having many of its all-stars boycotting the game in Atlanta, so the Commissioner pre-empted that by having the game moved elsewhere. It was an understandable and, on balance, a reasonable decision.
So, what to make of all of this. Well, as one of Georgia’s late favorite sons still reminds us, “…Oh Georgia, no peace I find, (no peace I find)—Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.”
All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.