Editor’s note: This commentary is by Curtis Hier, a 33-year high school teacher from Fair Haven and the president of the Vermont Alliance for the Social Studies.
Lips cracked and parched. Eyes sunken in. Staggering around on their last legs. Drawing in their last gasps of air. That’s how the media would describe people in a voting line. But in November it’s just not so. Nobody dies of thirst in November, not even in Georgia. Unattended self-service receptacles for dispensing water are allowed — coolers, in other words. And it’s perfectly legal to sell any food or drink items to voters for 1 cent.
SB 202’s infamous provision isn’t about water. It isn’t about food. It’s about solicitation at the polls. It’s about gifts. It’s about “walking around money.” Yes, it targets Democrats, because they’re the ones historically who have engaged in such practices.
Walking around money (or street money) has long been used as part of the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote efforts. It’s just a part of life for city political machines. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign budgeted for a large amount of walking around money. The practice historically has been widespread particularly in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Baltimore. Bear in mind, Republican hands aren’t completely clean when it comes to handing out street money. And to his credit, Barack Obama made a sincere effort to eliminate the practice from his campaign, and he still saw incredible turnout.
The other part of the new Georgia law that has drawn ire and fire is the ID requirement. But let’s consider the actual law, not the media version of it. The law preserves no-excuse absentee voting. It preserves a three-week period of voting. It allows Sunday voting, something important in the African American community. But what it does also is it replaces signature matching with IDs.
Simple verification that the actual voter is submitting the absentee ballot is essential to the integrity of absentee ballots. (Three groups — America Votes, Vote Forward, and The New Georgia Project — were warned repeatedly about illegally registering non-residents and the deceased for the January runoff.) But signature matching caused arguments over whether the signatures matched or not and slowed the vote counting process. So the new law eliminates signature matching and permits all sorts of forms of ID, including the last four digits of one’s Social Security number. And the state provides IDs for free.
But it’s easier to cry voter suppression. It’s more effective. It gets the media riled up. And it dupes people into believing the Republicans and Gov. Brian Kemp are evil. Joe Biden described the law as “sick” and reminiscent of Jim Crow. So much for being unifying.
There’s even an effort to boycott Georgia. Georgia’s been boycotted before. (It cost the state 0.1 percent of its GDP.) So has North Carolina (for transgender rights), Mississippi (over gay rights), Alabama (for abortion rights), and Arizona (immigration legislation). But the entertainment industry that so often participates in these boycotts has no problem working with and for companies that run sweatshops in the developing world. As Ricky Gervais famously said to the whole industry, “If ISIS had a streaming service, you would be calling your agents.”
But where’s the real voting crisis?
The Democrats want to have felons vote, noncitizens vote, children vote. They are big fans of ballot harvesting. They want to blow up the Electoral College. They want to pack the Supreme Court. They want to admit 68 square mile Washington, D.C., and tiny island Puerto Rico as states because it will pack the Senate. Enough of the voter suppression talk. Just enough already.