Sure Would Be A Shame If All Georgia's New Voters Turned Out To Vote!

In a fine example of the rare political genre of intended consequences, The Wall Street Journalreports today that a 2016 Georgia law that automatically registers voters when they get a driver's license is doing exactly what it was supposed to: getting more people onto the voter rolls. And in a nice demographic shift that Republicans will no doubt insist is horribly unfair, the law has resulted in an increase among groups that tend to vote for Democrats, like women and minorities. Yes, that's in Georgia, where the Democrat running for governor is Stacey Abrams, who could become the state's first African-American governor, and where the Republican nominee, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, has been accused multiple times of working to suppress Democratic votes. Happily, voting rights advocates have won several victories anyway.

The new voter registration law, signed a couple years back by outgoing Gov. Nathan Deal, has resulted in some potentially useful numbers for Abrams and other Democrats in a state the Dems have hoped to flip blue for ages:

That automatic voter registration helped fuel a 15% increase in Georgia's active voter rolls to about 6.3 million this September from about 5.5 million in November 2016. Black registered voters rose 15%, Hispanic voters 40%, and Asian and Pacific Islander voters rose 36%. The number of women who are registered to vote increased 13% in the same period, and white registered voters went up by about 10%.

That's going to make turnout crucial for Abrams -- especially since Georgia has one of those good ol' voter suppression laws, which still requires newly registered voters to submit -- at some time before they cast a ballot -- proof of their name and address to the state, so poll workers can check registration lists against photo IDs at the poll. Just one extra little hoop to jump through, although at least in March the ACLU forced the state to change some misleading language on the registration form. And lord knows Kemp's office has tried to exploit every possible aspect of the voter ID law to "protect" the vote -- like a purge of voters whose voter registration forms didn't exactly match their government-issued ID -- down to the punctuation:

Discrepancies as small as a missing apostrophe or hyphen, or missing or transposed letters would cause a mismatch, and if the applicant failed to correct the mismatch within 40 days, their registration was automatically cancelled.

The result was the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of eligible Georgia voters. The policy had an undeniable disproportionate effect on black, Asian American and Latino registrants. Black applicants, for example, were eight times more likely to be cancelled under the policy than white applicants.

The Campaign Legal Center and other groups sued, and the state returned more than 50,000 eligible voters to the rolls, although they'll still have to show ID at the polling place in November, and the state may pull the same fuckery in future elections. If Kemp wins this fall, expect further attempts to whiten up the voting rolls to prevent fraud by people with typos on official forms.

WSJ notes Georgia's population is both growing and becoming less Anglo, with black, Hispanic, and Asian populations increasing faster than whites, a trend reflected in the new registration numbers. Howard Franklin, a Democratic political consultant who worked for Abrams when she was in the state legislature, was happy to see the demographic shift reflected in voter rolls, but added, "Knocking down the barriers to registration is not the same as getting people to show up at a midterm election."

Georgia joined a number of states where voter registration is automatic with a driver's license unless the driver actively opts out; Oregon has combined automatic registration with voting by mail to get one of the highest voter turnout rates in the country. Georgia isn't about to go in that direction anytime soon, but this could be very good news -- as long as it's allowed to continue being good news. And that means not letting the party of voter suppression do what it loves most. As always, it's a good reminder to check your own registration and keep it up to date.

[WSJ (paywalled? Try this Twitter link) / Atlanta Journal-Constitution / Nation / Campaign Legal Center]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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