Press-Telegram (Long Beach)

Georgia GOP finds new ways to succeed

- Columnist Larry Wilson is on the Southern California News Group editorial board. lwilson@scng.com.

If you were a political party — I know, yuck, but let’s just say you were — not appealing to African American voters, you could take one of three tacks.

First, you could change your platform and your candidates in ways that might resonate with your target demographi­c.

Second, if that didn’t blow your skirt up, you could say, well, we’re just going to go forward knowing we’re not going to get any significan­t amount of support from Black Americans.

Third, if you were feeling creepy, you could seek to make it against the law to open polls on a day that has traditiona­lly been popular for African Americans to vote on.

And that’s just what the Republican Party of Georgia is seeking to do with bills that would restrict early voting on the weekends. The legislatio­n targets an age-old electoral tradition in the Peach State called “Souls to the Polls,” in which Black voters cast their ballots on Sundays after church services.

There’s no mystery to the GOP reasoning here. African American voters in Georgia in November backed Joe Biden for president to the tune of about 88%. In that special Senate runoff election in the state in January, more than 90% of Black Georgians went for the surprising­ly successful Democrats, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

For its purely blitzkrieg approach, a simple solution to a complicate­d problem, you have to admire the chutzpah here.

“Rather than grappling with whether their ideology is causing them to fail, they are instead relying on what has worked in the past,” Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat, told The New York Times about the effort to suppress the votes of Black Georgians. “Instead of winning new voters, you rig the system against their participat­ion, and you steal the right to vote.”

This wasn’t some novel coronaviru­s procedural change. Georgia has had early voting, and Sunday voting, for decades.

In its bid to rig the system against citizens who don’t much care for what the contempora­ry GOP has come to stand for — in a nutshell, the cultural inclinatio­ns of non-college-educated rural Whites — Georgia Republican­s sought support last week from the Supreme Court, and are likely to get it. That didn’t stop Justice Elena Kagan from asking an interestin­g question:

“If a state has long had two weeks of early voting and then the state decides that it is going to get rid of Sunday voting on those two weeks, leave everything else in place, and Black voters vote on Sunday 10 times more than white voters, is that system equally open?”

For reasons that Georgia election bosses don’t even try to explain, even with weekend voting long available, actual election days in the state always feature hourslong lines in precincts in Black neighborho­ods. GOP solution — let’s make it worse! “They’re creating a line management problem,” Aunna Dennis, the executive director of Common Cause Georgia, told the Times. In the June primary, she says, “we saw people in line for over six hours. Just imagine if we were losing 108 hours of early voting time, of Sunday voting, access to the drop box, how many of those people are now going to have to wait in line?”

In pre-pandemic times I enjoyed going to my neighborho­od fire station to vote and visit with neighbors on Election Day, I was mystified by those who chose to vote absentee. I’d certainly choose a mail or Sunday option rather than wait for hours in the Southern swamp heat.

Rock-ribbed Republican Sarah Isgur, formerly Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department spokespers­on, told the L.A. Times: “On the right, the issue used to be preventing ineligible voters from casting a ballot. Now we’re talking about limiting eligible voters from casting a ballot.”

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Larry Wilson

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