After Major League Baseball (MLB) announced it would be moving its All-Star Game away from Georgia because of the state’s recently passed voter suppression law, Republicans began downplaying the law that many critics have called a rehash of “Jim Crow.”
When MLB announced that the game would now be in Denver, Colorado, Republicans scrambled to compare the two locations, arguing that Colorado’s voting laws are just as bad as Georgia’s. Republicans like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said on Fox that MLB’s decision is “so hypocritical” because Colorado has fewer early voting days and also has voter ID requirements. That argument has also been echoed by many other Republicans like National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson Matt Whitlock.
As many have pointed out, however, these comparisons are superficial at best. Colorado has fewer early voting days because the state mails ballots to every registered voter before an election, which voters can then mail back or drop off at a drop box.
While Colorado does have voter ID requirements — which are historically discriminatory — for those who vote in person, it accepts 10 more forms of identification than Georgia’s six; additionally, voters without an ID can vote via a provisional ballot or simply vote by mail if they’ve voted before. Colorado’s elections are so open that the state consistently has some of the highest voter turnout, including in 2020, when the state ranked second.
Pointing out Colorado’s ID laws is also a sidestep from what critics were truly concerned about regarding Georgia’s voter ID law: unnecessarily strict ID requirements for absentee ballots on top of already strict photo ID requirements in the state for in-person voting.
With these comparisons between the two states, Republicans are also attempting to flatten the Georgia bill to imply that any sort of voter ID requirements — which are to be found in most states — are just as bad as the requirements Georgia just imposed. But many of the provisions in Georgia’s law are being characterized as unprecedented and provisions handing Republicans control over elections are seriously alarming.
The bill itself limits access to voting in at least 16 different ways and, most alarming, gives Republican lawmakers in the state extremely deep and wide control over how elections are run and who is allowed to vote.
In claiming that, for instance, the bill expands access, Republicans like Kemp are trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes. They appear to be attempting to hide the fact that the bill and hundreds of others across the country seek to limit voting access.
And while Republicans attempt to obscure the truth about the voting bills, Donald Trump, who is still in some ways the de facto leader of the party, said on Tuesday that the voter suppression bill doesn’t go far enough.
Trump’s influence still does, indeed, underlie the whole operation. Political observers have noted that the very fact that the racist vote-suppressing lines in the bill are debated is a concession to Trump’s lies about election fraud. “The conversation is something like the mid-2000s debate over whether torture works,” wrote University of Denver political scientist Seth Masket on Twitter. “It basically doesn’t, but to even have that debate is to have surrendered something.”
To some extent, the bill has achieved part of what Trump and the Republicans have set out to do, which is not just to control elections and skew their results more toward Republicans, but also to control the narrative on elections themselves. For instance, those in the center and on the left are debating how elections in Georgia will be affected by a law that makes handing out food and water to people waiting in line to vote illegal.
Meanwhile, the right gets to perpetuate the myth that they are the party concerned about election fraud, which is close to nonexistent, while getting everyone to implicitly acknowledge the big lie about a stolen election that compelled thousands of people to join an attack on the Capitol building in January.
Kemp had stood up to Trump during the 2020 election, refusing to bow to Trump’s attempts to get the results of the election overturned. But after months of relentless attacks from the right after Georgia voted for Joe Biden, Kemp is now defending his party’s law to suppress voting. Still, Trump singled out Kemp in his statement on Tuesday claiming that the law didn’t go far enough in suppressing the vote.
The larger right-wing strategy that underlies even Trump’s lies about election fraud, however, is their long-running attempt to rig elections in their own favor. Trump was just incendiary enough to give them the freedom to say it out loud.