Something is happening all across the country and if nothing is done to slow it down, critics say it will have a dramatic impact on the way future elections are held along with the outcomes they yield. In more than forty states, both red and blue, state legislatures are rewriting voting laws. Republicans defend this wave as “expanding access.” Democrats call it disenfranchising and Jim Crow-like in the way it may impact Blacks, Latinos and others with limited access to the polls.
“Most of it (new legislation) is pure partisan politics,” said Lakewood Democratic Representative Chris Kennedy. “It’s really troubling putting up the argument of election security and fraud” to justify the wave of new legislation. The poster child for this metamorphosis is Georgia, a state that went from red to blue in November and dove deeper into the blue in a January special election sending an African American and a Jew to the U.S. Senate.
While 43 state legislatures are tinkering with or trying to dismantle systems that seemed to have worked in November, no state embodies the lust for electoral change like Georgia. Late last month, Governor Brian Kemp signed controversial legislation containing the most significant changes in voting laws in a generation. “Making it against the law to give food or water (while waiting to vote),” said Kennedy. “It’s draconian.” But that’s just one change in the 98-page legislation that was signed behind closed doors. An African American state legislator was handcuffed and arrested for knocking on the Governor’s door to gain entry. She faces two felony charges.
Other provisions of the Georgia law will reduce the time to request absentee ballots; it will now be illegal for election officials to mail out absentee ballot applications to all voters; it will reduce the number of drop boxes and remove them from curbside and place them inside; it will give the Republican-controlled legislature more control over the State Election Board.
All indications as the inspiration for Georgia’s overhaul of state voting laws and the majority of others point to ex-president Donald Trump. Trump lost Georgia by 11,779 votes. In a recorded phone conversation with Georgia’s Secretary of State---who certified the election outcome three times---Trump tried strong arming the office to “find 11,800 votes,” to put him over the top and win the state. He was rebuffed. The number is exactly one more than the margin he lost by.
While the changes in voting laws have captured headlines, Colorado Republicans have introduced only five pieces of legislation aimed at altering the way business is done. “One of those bills was voter ID on steroids,” said Kennedy. “It required you to go in person to the county clerk and show proof of citizenship in order to stay on mail ballot list.” The chances for passage are less in Colorado because Democrats control all three branches of government.
Kennedy, scores of state election officials and pundits across the country said the move to copy Georgia or any other state and rejigger voting laws makes no sense. It amounts to nothing more than “a solution in search of a problem,” he said. Others, agree, including some Republicans. “I want people to know that Colorado’s system is designed with a number of precautions to ensure that it’s done accurately and that they should have confidence that their votes are counted accurately here in Colorado,” said former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams in an interview with Colorado Public Radio last year.
Denver voters, said Clerk and Recorder, Paul Lopez, should have total confidence in the voting process. “Our model is the Gold Standard for the nation.” The city’s model allows voters can return their vote 24-hours a day, take them through official drop-offs or mail them back. They can also vote in person. “We test the voting system before and after every election,” he said.
Corporate America has reacted to not only Georgia’s demolition and reconstruction of voter laws, but rather demonstrably in other state where similar movements are underway. Major League Baseball wasted no time in announcing that it would remove its All-Star game that had been planned for Atlanta this summer. Coke and Delta Airlines, both Atlanta-based, also denounced the new law.
Texas-based corporate giants AT&T, Dell Computers, Southwest and American Airlines also reacted to that state’s effort to dilute or rewrite voting laws. Newspaper editorials in Texas’ largest cities also denounced Senate Bill 7, which contains changes in voting laws similar to Georgia’s. An editorial in the Fort Worth Telegram said of the proposed legislation, “some of the fixes don’t fix anything…they just deter voters.”
While Colorado is a smaller player in this race to alter systems that seem to have worked the way they were intended, it is home to one of the main cogs in this whole movement. Denver-based Dominion Voting Systems, which sells electronic voting hardware and software, is at the eye of the storm in a number of states. It is also involved in lawsuits naming key Trump associates who it says has soiled its name and reputation by stating that it helped rig the Presidential Election against Trump. Former Trump attorney and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is named in a lawsuit as a key player in a “viral disinformation campaign,” Dominion alleges he masterminded. Another key Trump advisor, attorney Sidney Powell, is also a defendant. Dominion is seeking $1.3 billion in damages.