Voter Suppression Fest 2020 Kicks Off In Georgia
Early in-person voting started in Georgia Monday, and what we witnessed was hardly democracy in action. People were waiting in lines that snaked around city blocks for almost 10 hours. That's a de facto poll tax and outright disenfranchisement for people with disabilities and parents of small children. It's inexcusable, but that didn't stop officials from trying. God bless.
"Georgia is seeing record turnout for early voting because of excitement and enthusiasm of the upcoming election," said Walter Jones, a spokesperson for the Georgia Secretary of State's office. "Long lines are to be expected — voters need to be aware of all of their options including three weeks of early voting, no-excuse absentee and in-person voting day of the election."
See? Long lines are to be expected, so sit down and shut up. Well, you can't actually sit. You'll have to stand for hours on end, but your tired dogs are no excuse for bellyaching. This is America, where our regularly scheduled elections remain a constant source of surprise.
During Georgia primary voters in predominantly white areas waited 6 minutes to vote while voters in predominantly m… https://t.co/1ywN3b38OK— Ari Berman (@Ari Berman)1602535773.0
Ever since Chief Justice John Roberts declared racism a passing fad and gutted the Voting Rights Act, Republican-led states have shut down polling places, which is where people go to vote. Those 1,200 polling places in the South weren't old Blockbuster Videos. We still have elections. Nothing changed. Those states didn't shift to mail-in voting. In Georgia, there are now seven counties that have just one polling place. That is deliberate suppression.
Check out Houston, Texas's one ballot dropoff location for 4.7 million people today:
Officials also can't pretend they were caught flat-footed by a surge in early in-person voting because of the pandemic. Even before COVID-19 struck, Georgia was reducing the number of polling locations since the 2016 election. This was despite an actual increase in the number of registered voters.
From a 13WMAZ special report:
In the last four years, the number of registered voters in Bibb County jumped from about 79,000 to 105,000.
As the number of voters increased, the county decreased its polling places by one, going from 32 in 2016 down to 31.
The government isn't randomly screwing up. As conservative Never Trumper David Frum noted on Twitter, America is proving exceptional at suppressing the vote.
It's not easy to design a voting system that creates 11 hour lines. Nobody else in the developed world has managed… https://t.co/m2IBLFMA7N— David Frum (@David Frum)1602549472.0
This is the year 2020, which we know because we're all miserable. There's no longer any justification for these long-ass lines. I live in Oregon, which has had a vote-by-mail system since 1998. A ballot arrives at my house. I fill it out for candidates who'll fuck the police at varying levels. It's simple and efficient. I also don't have to take a day off from work and risk exposing myself to COVID-19 in order to exercise my constitutional rights.
Washington, Colorado, Utah, and Hawaii have also conducted elections by mail without major incident. Donald Trump hates mail-in voting and baselessly claims that the system has “tremendous potential for fraud." (It doesn't.) He also argues that “for whatever reason," voting by mail “doesn't work out well for Republicans." He doesn't even bother hiding his true concern.
If Georgians could vote as easily as people in Oregon and Washington, it's possible that Republicans might suffer at the ballot box, but that doesn't make vote-by-mail a fraudulent system. This is a common complaint from conservatives, who oppose statehood for DC and Puerto Rico primarily because they believe it would benefit Democrats.
Voters appeared undaunted by the lines, but that isn't a “hooray for democracy" moment. The voters were predominately Black and consumed with a passion to free themselves of Trump. At the main Cobb County early polling location in Marietta, voter Viola Hardy joined the line at 6:20 a.m. and was still waiting five hours later. She wasn't going anywhere.
HARDY: I think people are really ready to vote, and it doesn't matter how long it takes. We are standing in line to vote. That's the most important part. We're voting like our life depends on it.
We don't know how Hardy voted Monday. She might believe Trump's claim that he's done more for us Black folks than even Abraham Lincoln and she's just eager to show her appreciation, but for some reason, I doubt it. There was no crazy in her eyes, just determination.
There are Viola Hardys across the nation who understand what's at stake, and they're coming for you, Trump.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."