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BERNARD COLUMN: Georgia and Voter Suppression

By Jack Bernard
Bernard is a retired corporate executive

As forward-looking Americans, we all should be devoted toward making our Republic a more inclusive, democratic nation. And that means making voting as fair as possible. But Georgia’s SB 202, passed by the General Assembly earlier this year and quickly signed in private by Gov. Kemp, does the opposite.

Arguably the most objectionable portion of the bill is the removal of local decision making due to raw politics. Historically, Georgia County Boards of Elections have made decisions on the acceptance of ballots and the eligibility of individual voters. But, under the extremely dubious guise of ensuring honest elections, SB 202 removes that power from the counties and gives it to the State Board of Elections, controlled by the General Assembly which appoints three of five members. 

It removes the Georgia Secretary of State from his traditional role as the Chair of that Board, with the chairman instead appointed by the General Assembly as one of its appointees. Apparently, this action was taken in response to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a conservative GOP elected official who had the audacity to find that Georgia’s 2020 election was fair and honest.

As state residents know, there have traditionally been cries from rural GOP legislators that the votes in larger counties like Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett — all of which vote for Democrats over the GOP — have been tampered with in some way. Although there were many allegations, none have been proven in court. This is true despite the fact that many GOP leaders are repeating absurd fraud claims as though they were proven facts. 

However, Republicans simply filing so many suits has caused their base to believe fraud was committed, though it was not. Now, our GOP -dominated legislature can conjure up excuses to throw out ballots in those bigger Democrat vote areas in future elections that may be tight, like 2022 will be.

Voting lines in many of these Democratic leaning counties are outrageous, at least in part by design. According to one report, Fulton County had the longest waiting lines in the entire nation. On the other hand, in many rural Georgia counties which lean Republican, there is virtually no line at all.

Showing an ID and many of the other new requirements under the new Georgia voting act seem innocuous. But they are not.

For example, take an elderly or infirm person who wants to get an ID to vote. He or she would either have to go to the DMV or the county registrar’s office. That seems like a simple task for most of us. And it is if you are able bodied and young. But not everyone fits that description.

I know of a 92-year-old woman in a nursing home. She wants to vote but has no driver’s license. Should we be demanding that she appear in person to get an ID card? That’s not facilitating an honest vote. It’s suppressing it, especially when there is a disproportionate impact on lower income blacks and Latinos.

If you thought that the 2020 election was disruptive, get ready for 2022 when the new bill is in place. Under SB 202, there will be an anonymous fraud tip line and unlimited challenges are permitted by any citizen. It will be an outrageous farce. We will be very lucky if we know the winner of many major races by 2023 … and a large portion of the Georgia public will not believe the results anyway.