After Reconstruction when Black voters obtained the right to vote, there have been serious efforts to limit their voting by raising all manner of obstacles as part of the Jim Crow laws that limited Black participation in civic life. The Republican party has for the longest time, ever since they realized that they were in danger of becoming the permanent minority party, sought to disenfranchise voting by poor and minority communities so that they could hold on to power by retaining a majority in the white community. In the past, these efforts were more discreet but Trump’s failure to win re-election and the loss of their majority in the senate by two senatorial defeats in Georgia, of all places, has resulted in a re-thinking. This is because despite their efforts at Black voter suppression and energizing their white voters to come out in record numbers for Trump, voters of color were energized even more and the increase in their numbers dwarfed increased white turnout.
This has clearly made the Republican party decide that they should double down on their minority disenfranchisement efforts across the nation as can be seen in those states where they control the state legislatures and the governorships and can pass legislation to that effect. The Brennan Center has highlighted these efforts at voter suppression using the myth of voter fraud.
The most recent Georgia law is the starkest example of this. In its efforts to suppress the vote, they have even made it a misdemeanor to provide food and water to people waiting in line to vote.
Senate Bill 202, now law, requires the use of a state ID to verify identity for an absentee ballot, which might be the least problematic provision. Absentee ballots will only be able to be dropped off during regular business hours at early voting locations. Coupled with strict legal limits on who can drop off a ballot, it effectively makes the use of the drop boxes impossible for people who work nontraditional hours.
While weekend early voting expanded under the law, the overall period of early voting was contracted. The law also allows the State Election Board to remove local election board officials for violations, replacing them with a state-appointed superintendent. Because larger jurisdictions like Atlanta have more voters, otherwise-competent administrators are more likely to err in violation simply as a matter of volume. The provision is a legal fig leaf for a state takeover of city elections.
In an effervescent finishing splash of absurd cruelty, the law makes giving food and water to people standing in line to vote a felony.
It appears that Florida also thinking of banning the giving of water and food to people waiting in line. Republicans in Georgia and Florida, no doubt all lovers of Jesus, do not seem to be familiar with the passage in Matthew 23:34-40 where he talks about how people will be judged at the end of time.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
I cannot believe that this aspect of the law will be upheld by the courts. I fully expect people to deliberately violate this law by handing out food and water to voters in line.
Will these voter suppression efforts work? As this article points out, it can backfire, since expansions of mail-in voting were done by many Republican-dominated states and Trump’s attacks on it may have harmed Republicans more than Democrats. Republican voters tend to be older and benefit from mail in voting and the like.
But there could be another factor. When your attempts to attack people’s rights become too obvious, then it can make people even more determined to to vote. Even if they do not have strong views on the issues, people who see that they are being targeted for voter suppression may become even more determined to vote simply because to not do so would be to give a victory to those seeking to stop them from voting. In other words, voter suppression efforts may make make voting an end in itself rather than a means to an end.