WASHINGTON, D.C.—Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger argues that the strong midterm election turnout in 2022 vindicates his state’s 2021 election law from the smears that it represented “Jim Crow 2.0.”
“We proved that Georgia does not have voter suppression. It’s easy to vote. It’s secure to vote,” Raffensperger, the state’s top election official, told The Daily Signal in an interview Thursday.
After Senate Bill 202 passed, expanding voter ID requirements to mail-in voting, Democrats falsely called the measure “Jim Crow 2.0,” a reference to the era of racist laws in Southern states that lasted from post-Civil War to the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the mid-1960s.
“SB 202, the Election Integrity Act of 2021, made sure that no matter how you vote in Georgia, it’s all based on photo ID. That gave voters confidence,” said Raffensperger, a Republican, in Washington this week for the annual meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State.
An independent survey conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Election Data and Science Lab, in conjunction with the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia, found that 99% of voters felt safe at polling stations, 98.9% reported no issues or difficulty in casting a ballot, 97% rated interactions with poll workers as “good” or “excellent,” and 95.3% reported wait times of less than 30 minutes.
The left-leaning New York Times described 2022 voter turnout—56%—as strong but “shy of the 2018 highwater mark midterms.”
In addition to requiring IDs for absentee ballots, the 2021 Georgia law establishes guidelines for ballot drop boxes, requires that lines at polling places be no longer than one hour per person, and gives the State Election Board more oversight over county election administration. The measure also prohibits political operatives from offering food, bottled water, or anything of value within 150 feet of polls.
“It required that lines had to be shorter than one hour. The average wait time on Election Day was two minutes,” Raffensperger said. “We also noticed the longest wait we saw was just one or two precincts out of our 2,500 precincts had wait times of 50 minutes. Those were just during [the] lunch period, so we really worked with the county to keep those lines short so voters had a great experience.”
Failed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams led warnings that the law would suppress voters, and President Joe Biden also traveled to Atlanta in early 2022 to deliver a fiery speech that compared supporters of the Georgia law and election reforms in other states to Jefferson Davis and George Wallace. Democrats in Congress also joined the attack.
The rhetoric proved misleading, as the law made it easier to vote, Raffensperger said.
“We had 17 days of early voting. The second day we added was a Saturday, so now we have 17 days and two Saturdays,” Raffensperger said. “People that vote on Saturday, those are hardworking Georgians that can’t get off Monday to Friday, so it just enabled those people to participate. By and large, people on both sides of the aisle were pleased with the process. We showed everyone that it is easier to vote in Georgia but it is hard to cheat. It’s successful, it’s secure, and it’s honest.”
He noted that Abrams led the allegations of suppression after losing the 2018 governor’s race by about 50,000 votes.
“We’ve been pushing back on Stacey Abrams’ voter suppression myth since she lost in 2018,” Raffensperger said.
“She had several counts in her Fair Fight lawsuit. We won when it finally got to trial before the judge,” Raffensperger added. “Not a single one of her allegations were ever supported by the facts.”
Across the country, 19 states passed similar election reform measures that mostly extended voter ID requirements to absentee ballots. This meant including the last four digits of a Social Security number or a driver’s license number in the absentee ballot application.
In some cases, those states saw an increased turnout over states that didn’t pass election reforms.
Maryland, for example, which doesn’t require voter ID, had a near 10% lower voter turnout in 2022 than in 2018, according to an analysis conducted by the left-leaning Washington Post.
Maryland Secretary of State Susan Lee, a Democrat, said the state’s Legislature considered voter ID in the past, but is more focused on encouraging voters to turnout by enacting an Election Day voter registration law and expanding “wildly popular” early voting and vote by mail.
“In Maryland, our goal is not only to have more secure elections, but also to encourage more people to vote and in the spirit of the Voting Rights Act that was passed in the 1960s,” Lee told The Daily Signal. “The more people that vote, the better. They are exercising their right to vote and they are exercising their voice. It’s also in furtherance of our democracy.”
Asked if there is any evidence that voter ID laws suppress voting, she responded: “I think you should talk to other states that have passed that because our laws have been passed to increase voter registration and participation in our democracy.”
Of the election reforms passed in 2021, former West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant noted that Texas, after expanding ID requirements for mail-in ballots, experienced a 12% increase in rejected ballots in the March 2022 primary election.
Tennant, a Democrat who was attending the conference, said she didn’t oppose voter ID, but said it should be “reasonable.”
“What I do know is we want people to vote who are who they say they are and I think when you look at voting ID laws, they need to be fair and reasonable to the voter and should not have any preference over any type of ID,” she said.
“Like Texas, why is a concealed weapon permit like I have that originally did not have a picture on it, why is it OK but not a student ID?” Tennant added. “They need to be reasonable like West Virginia’s, where there are about 18-20 different possibilities to be able to use as ID, like a debit card, like all the ones you can think of: a military ID, a student ID, Social Security card.”
In the March 2022 primary election, Texas recorded an increased voter turnout of 3.03 million voters, up from the comparable 2018 midterm elections of 2.59 million. However, the general election turnout for 2022 fell by 7% from the 2018 midterm record, but was still higher than turnout for all other previous midterm elections, The Texas Tribune reported.
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