‘Jim Eagle’ and Georgia’s Voting Law
Georgia passed its over-hyped voting law on Thursday, and the news was met with more of the same. President Biden said at his news conference that the voting bills percolating in GOP state Legislatures are “un-American,” “sick,” “pernicious,” and worse: “This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle.”
C’mon, man, as Mr. Biden likes to say. The comparison is grotesque, and seeing that only requires swimming sideways for a minute to escape the rip current of the media narrative. Take a look at what’s actually in the legislation—and what isn’t.
Georgia’s new law leaves in place Sunday voting, a point of contention with earlier proposals, given that black churches have a “souls to the polls” tradition after services. The Legislature, rather, decided to expand weekend early voting statewide, by requiring two Saturdays instead of only one under current law. In total, Georgia offers three weeks of early voting, which began last year on Oct. 12. This is not exactly restrictive: Compare that with early voting that started Oct. 24 last year in New York.
The new law also leaves in place no-excuses absentee voting. Every eligible Georgia voter will continue to be allowed to request a mail ballot for the sake of simple convenience—or for no reason at all. Again, this is hardly restrictive: More than a dozen states, including Connecticut and Delaware, require mail voters to give a valid excuse.
So what does the Georgia law do? First, it gets rid of signature matching, so election workers aren’t trying to verify mail ballots by comparing John Hancocks. This subjective process should concern both sides. It creates avenues for contested outcomes, with fighting over ambiguous signatures. In 2018 about 2,400 ballots in Georgia were rejected for issues with the signature or oath, according to a recent paper in Political Research Quarterly. Those voters were 54% black.
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