Find Someone Who Loves You as Much as the GOP Loves Trying to Keep Black People from Voting
"If David Podhaskie isn't trolling, then what is he doing?" - David Podhaskie
Folks, before this week is even out, it will officially be the month of April. What a wonderful development for all of mankind. Spring is coming and that means you will all be joining me on the rooftop of some random bar in Denver, drinking Palomas and eating tacos. And if you don’t live in Denver you are being really, really silly.
As the provocative title suggests, the major story last week was the Georgia legislature passing SB 202, a law that enacts a whole new wave of voter restrictions in the State that just so happened to go Democratic in 2020 after being in the hands of Republicans since 1992. If you want a detailed explainer, Zach Beauchamp over at Vox has a good piece. So does Perry Pancetta, Jr., over at 538. But the law really is sweeping and restrictive, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you. Among the new restrictions:
Increasing voter ID requirements for people mailing in absentee ballots, who now have to submit identification details and a driver's license number or other forms of government-issued ID when requesting an absentee ballot as well as when submitting it. A vote may be rejected if any ID details don't match up between the request and the submission.
Cutting down on the number of absentee ballot boxes that can be used.
Limiting mobile voting stations to emergency use.
Requiring that absentee ballots be requested at least 11 days before the election (previously, they could be requested through the Friday before Election Day).
Requiring counties to publish the total number of votes cast and by what methods by 10 p.m. on election night.
Allowing the State Election Board to "suspend county or municipal superintendents and appoint an individual to serve as the temporary superintendent in a jurisdiction."
Allowing a Georgia voter to challenge the qualifications of an unlimited number of other voters in their county or municipality.
And then, of course, there is the most controversial aspect of the bill: Banning people from serving water or food to people standing in line to vote, something which does happen quite often in Georgia.1
Some of the really controversial proposals that were being floated - limiting weekend voting, for instance - did not make it into the final version of the bill. But it is still a pretty cavalier attempt to “correct” an outcome that the GOP did not like.
I think it’s important to note off the bat that while the GOP’s actions here are bad and nauseating, they are also stupid (it’s also pretty bad optics to sign the bill in front of a painting of a slave plantation). There is a lot of evidence that suggests these rules will not only make it harder for black Georgians to vote, but that they will also make it harder for traditional Republican voters to get to the polls. The potential for this bill backfiring on the GOP is real. It is also possible that the passage of this bill will drive turnout, as has historically been the case. Generally, when a legislature passes a law to keep a certain segment of the populace from voting, that populace gets angry and shows up at the polls to voice their frustration.
But here is the real reason it is stupid: Republicans actually made in-roads with minority voters in 2020. This is likely because (spoiler), there are good chunks of these voters who do not really like being told what to do or believe by a white liberal in Brooklyn, and it really is a vulnerability for the Democrats going forward. The GOP could conceivably win in Georgia if they choose to promote ideas that are more popular with Georgians, but instead it looks like they are going for the “please no more voting” route.
In reality, the writing is on the wall for the GOP in Georgia no matter how effective SB 202 turns out to be; as more people move to the Atlanta metro area, the state will quickly go down the same path as Virginia and Colorado. The GOP’s major issue right isn’t actually the lack of racial diversity in their Party; it’s the lack of educational diversity. College-educated voters are one of the groups most-likely to vote and given their shift away from the GOP, it remains hard to see how they can keep winning a state like Georgia indefinitely. So, instead of appealing to a diversifying state and promoting the family values that minority families tend to agree with, the GOP has instead made a whole community angry with them and lost educated voters. Bang-up job.
So, is the law even constitutional? I think that is debatable. The new rules the GOP has put in place are really weird and hard to justify. After all, Georgia certified its election results and found virtually no evidence of fraud in the 2020 election. What is the basis, then, for these changes? Outside of saying, “Well, we didn’t like the results in 2020,” the Republicans don’t really have a good answer.
And then when you get into legislative intent it gets dicier. You see, in Warren v. Davis, the Supreme Court found that any major changes to election laws could violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment if the intent of the legislature who enacted said law was found to be racially motivated. This is what happened in North Carolina in 1961. The Fourth Circuit struck down set of laws enacted by Republicans:
[A] leader of the party that newly dominated the legislature (and the party that rarely enjoyed African American support) announced an intention to enact what he characterized as an “omnibus” election law. Before enacting that law, the legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices. Upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans. In response to claims that intentional racial discrimination animated its action, the State offered only meager justifications. Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist (my emphasis).
The Republicans in the North Carolina legislature, in other words, used their representative powers to find out what methods of identification African-Americans did not have, and made getting those IDs are requirement for voting in North Carolina.2 Pretty evil and cruel. The most evil and cruel part? I lied! The decision isn’t from 1961. It’s from 2016. Remember that the next time someone tells you that the Georgia voting law is just “securing” our elections.
As noted above, the GOP did not include the restrictions to weekend voting in the final version of the bill. That is relevant because a significant boost in turnout amongst black voters in Georgia is done by getting “souls to the polls,” which entails taking black voters straight from church to the polling booth on Sundays. That’s what makes the GOP’s intent behind limiting weekend voting so salient here. What was the purpose of targeting a vote-turnout method that was almost exclusively used by black Georgians? Without predicting what effect that will have in court, let’s just say a judge will be very interested in finding out.
So Uncle Joe did a press conference. The general reaction was that Joe Biden did pretty well and that the press was pretty bad. I think this is hard to argue against when Biden hung out for more than an hour and did not receive a single question about COVID-19. Dan Froomkin was not impressed with the press (get it?).
I do think it is a bad look for the White House press corps to be whining for weeks about Biden not doing a press conference, only to have him show up and not ask him about the most pressing issue in America right now (we even got a question about the 2024 election LORD HAVE MERCY). But the entire thing was a pretty refreshing experience for me after having to sit through a good number of Trump’s press conferences for years. My favorite moment: Biden cited to an incorrect stat, referred back to his notes, and then corrected himself by citing the right number. Nature is healing.
Another thing I noticed as I was watching both the press conference and my Twitter feed: Whenever Biden would slow down, or make a joke that didn’t land, it felt normal in the moment but conservative Twitter would pull those moments out of context and cite to Biden’s mental health. Case in point: Biden made a statement about him first getting to the Senate “120 years ago,” which conservatives took literally and said it was evidence that Biden’s brain was breaking. Fox even has a headline going right now that says Biden’s quip “raised eyebrows.” If this sounds familiar, they tried to do the same thing in September of 2020 when Biden said he got to the Senate “180 years ago.” The reality: It’s a laugh line from his stump speeches that he reuses over and over again, because he is an old white guy (though I’m not sure what my excuse is for reusing jokes).
It is a bizarre talking point after Biden has given multiple interviews, done town halls, now a press conference, and not to mention, two debates. Republican Senators who have met with Biden in private have also publicly described him as “sharp as a tack.” I mean, this has been the general argument since 2019 (worth noting that this was started by Bernie supporters):
A campaign of a thousand people is shoving a senile man with dementia to the Democratic nomination. Biden wins.
Ten thousand people in the Democratic Party are shoving a senile man with dementia to the Presidency. Biden wins.
More than ten thousand people in the US government are leaving a senile man with dementia in the Presidency. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
So, my new rule for dealing with this line of thought is to ask people if they believe the government blew up the World Trade Center with a controlled demolition or lasers from space.
Lastly, some should-reads. Although I don’t think this is really something anyone wants to read, it is interesting that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Trump’s bump stocks ban. It was a 2-1 decision and it can be appealed to go before a bigger panel of judges in the Sixth Circuit, but if the decision stands we will have a Circuit split and that means it will probably go to the Supreme Court. Just a neat thing to put a little pin in.
The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have two pieces analyzing the data of the border situation and both found that the “surge” we are seeing now is not historic. The only caveat I’d add here is that there is always the potential for more people to show up, especially as COVID-19 begins to fade.
New York has banned qualified immunity for police officers, which is a huge development many years in the making.
The Denver Post (of course) has the definitive account of what happened during the Boulder shooting.
That’s it for me my babies. As a reminder, I am not doing a Jackal next week due to the Easter holiday. I hope everyone gets some rest, relaxation, and does some flexing on the haters whilst also getting that paper.
It’s worth noting that standing in line to vote is not always a sign of voter suppression, and could in many cases be a sign of voter enthusiasm. I have seen long voting lines in New York mostly due to the denser population. And yes, I did just discover the footnote feature.