Voter suppression bills having 'little effect on turnout' does not make them good laws: journalist

Voter suppression bills having 'little effect on turnout' does not make them good laws: journalist
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The term “voter suppression” is typically used by Democrats to describe GOP-sponsored bills or laws that find a variety of ways to make voting more difficult: limiting voting by mail, reducing the number of ballot drop box locations, cutting back on early voting or weekend voting. Voter suppression laws don’t explicitly say that their intended target — which, Democrats say, is often African-American voters — can’t vote, but they go out of their way to make voting less convenient.

Voter suppression laws can sometimes backfire on Republicans. In 2012 — before the MAGA movement, and four years before Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign — an African-American listener called WURD (a Black talk radio station in Philadelphia) and angrily declared GOP voter suppression efforts made him more enthusiastic than ever about voting. That listener was furious with the Republican Party and couldn’t wait to express his anger by voting, and it was obvious that he planned to vote to reelect then-President Barack Obama.

In an article published by New York Magazine on October 24, liberal journalist Jonathan Chait addresses the effect that a controversial voter suppression law has had in Georgia. Chait notes that some conservative writers, including the National Review’s Rich Lowry and the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel, have recently defended the law — pointing out that early voting in Georgia in the 2022 midterms is showing a higher-than-usual turnout. But Chait argues, in essence, that even if many Georgia residents are voting despite its voter suppression law, that doesn’t mean that it’s a good law.

READ MORE: Donald Trump's allies mounting bogus challenges to Georgia voters to suppress midterm turnout

“After their shocking defeat in the 2020 elections,” Chait explains, “Georgia Republicans enacted voting restrictions in the hopes they could prevent another defeat…. And yet, early voting numbers indicate the law has not so far curtailed voter turnout. Conservatives have responded to this news by insisting the law was never intended to restrict voter participation, and anybody who claimed it was should apologize.”

Chait adds that Republicans “do have a point here that Democrats exaggerated the effects of the Georgia voting restrictions.”

“It was not, as President Biden hyperbolically labeled it, ‘Jim Crow on steroids,’” Chait writes. “Modern voter-suppression laws are far less onerous than the restrictions in place before 1965, and even by modern standards, Georgia’s law is relatively mild. The early results in Georgia are consistent with the outcomes of other voting restrictions. Evidence suggests voter suppression has little effect on turnout, because Democrats mobilize in response to restrictions, canceling out much or all of the suppressive effect.”

Chait continues, “But this dynamic reveals a paradox at the heart of the defense of voting restrictions. The reason voting restrictions are failing to restrict the vote is that Democrats are making a big deal of the fact that Republicans are trying to make it hard for their voters to cast ballots. Republicans wish to not only defend the laws, but to stop the criticism. The only way to defeat these laws is to loudly attack them, yet the very act of doing so allows conservatives to turn around and claim the attacks were lies…. There is also an irony in conservatives pointing to high voter turnout as vindication: This is exactly the outcome they have tried to prevent.”

READ MORE: Republican DA who championed voter suppression loses reelection

According to Chait, the “American conservative movement” has “believed consistently that voting should be made more difficult in order to shrink the electorate.” On April 6, 2021, the National Review’s Kevin Williamson argued that “The republic would be better served by having fewer — but better — voters.” In a 2016 op-ed for the Washington Post, David Harsanyi wrote, “We must weed out ignorant Americans from the electorate.” And Jonah Goldberg, in a 2007 op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, said, “Instead of making it easier to vote, maybe we should be making it harder.”

“After decades of insisting Americans in general, and Black Americans in particular, had too easy a time casting a ballot, and openly hoping to create elections with fewer voters, conservatives are now pointing to high voter turnout as vindication,” Chait writes. “It would be nice if this indicated they are happy about high voter turnout. What seems more likely is that they are using this result to defang the backlash against voter restrictions, so that next time, they can go further.”

READ MORE: How GOP-controlled state legislatures could pull off a coup in 2024: journalist

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