April 24, 2021

ILYA SHAPIRO: The voter suppression lie.

The voting wars have flared up again, though they’ve never really been far from the national political debate since Donald Trump was elected in 2016, or the Supreme Court decided Shelby County v. Holder in 2013 — or really Bush v. Gore in 2000. This time, a massive new Georgia law, the Election Integrity Act of 2021, also known as Senate Bill 202 (or SB 202), has triggered national apoplexy, with Democrats, including President Joe Biden, declaring it the new Jim Crow. Such comparisons are insulting to those who fought for civil rights in the 1960s, incendiary to a public discourse already hampered by low institutional confidence, and at base disingenuous.

Sorting out fact from fiction is not only important for this particular law, the fallout from which has already reached Major League Baseball and some Hollywood productions, but to understand the general debate over election regulation in America.

The Georgia law limits ballot drop boxes to places they can’t be tampered with (such as early voting sites), standardizes weekend voting hours, and asks people to write a driver’s license or Social Security number on absentee ballot envelopes.

Jim Crow was “literacy tests” and poll taxes, having to guess how many bubbles are in a bar of soap, and battling billy clubs and police dogs on the way to the voting precinct.

The Washington Post gave Biden “ four Pinocchios” for his claim that SB 202 was “ Jim Crow in the 21st century” for limiting voting hours and otherwise “deny[ing] the right to vote to countless voters.” That paper, not exactly a right-wing house organ, reported that “experts say the net effect was to expand the opportunities to vote for most Georgians, not limit them.” MIT elections expert Charles Stewart III found that “it indicated an expansion of hours, especially in rural counties.”

SB 202 does indeed improve voting access for most Georgians, entrenching the new opportunities to vote early and absentee (by mail and drop-off) introduced during the pandemic. For example, during a generous, at least compared to blue states such as New York and the president’s own home state of Delaware, 17 days of in-person early voting, voting locations have to be open at least eight hours, with county officials given leeway to adjust the times to suit their constituents. Election Day voting hours are even longer. The window for requesting absentee ballots, which can be done online, is reduced to a “mere” 67 days, starting 11 weeks and closing 11 days before an election, to allow time for the ballot to be mailed out and returned. . . .

Attempts by progressive groups and Democratic politicians to tie SB 202 to the era of segregation and systemic racial disenfranchisement are thus remarkably dishonest. Even the bizarre attack on the provision purportedly limiting the distribution of water to voters waiting in line is all wet. Many states have similar anti-electioneering (or anti-vote-buying) rules, which, as colorfully detailed by Dan McLaughlin in National Review, make it illegal to send “people in National Rifle Association t-shirts and MAGA hats to hand out free Koch-brothers-financed, Federalist Society-branded pizza to voters.” To again pick on the Empire State, New York explicitly prohibits giving voters “meat, drink, tobacco, refreshment or provision” unless the sustenance is worth less than a dollar and the person providing it isn’t identified. To be perfectly clear, under the new Georgia law, poll workers can still provide water to voters, and anyone can donate food and drink for election workers to set out for those waiting in line.

As for voter ID, SB 202 simply adds a requirement that voters provide the number of their driver’s license or (free) state identification card to apply for a ballot, the same as California, New Jersey, and Virginia, and one of those (or the last four digits of a Social Security number) when returning it. Surely, applying a numerical voter-verification requirement to absentee or mailed ballots is better than the inexact science (to say the least) of signature-matching. Colorado, now a solidly blue state that votes entirely by mail, rejected 29,000 ballots last fall (about 1 in 112) because the mailed signatures didn’t match those on file. That doesn’t count the 11,000 who were allowed to “cure” the issue by texting in a picture of a — gasp — photo ID. Illustrating the point further, the Tampa Bay Times just came out with an amusing article about how Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s signature has changed over the years, apparently leading to his ballot being tossed in a 2016 primary.

Voter ID more generally is hugely popular, including among Democrats.

Whenever the left is yelling about racism, it’s some sort of a grift.

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