Senate Democrats this week will try to pass legislation they argue is designed to protect the right to vote. It will likely fail, since 60 votes are needed for passage and no Republicans support the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer may try to carve out an exception to the filibuster so it can pass with 51 votes, but Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are against that.
The debate over voting rights has been mired in hyperbole by Democrats who claim that opposition to the bill is tantamount to voter suppression. There have even been attempts to categorize opposition as Jim Crow 2.0.
That is an insult to Black Americans who lived under Jim Crow, who were subject to poll taxes, literacy tests and outright refusal by white election officials in the south to allow Black Americans to register to vote.
President Biden elevated the attacks on the opposition in a speech in Atlanta last week. First, he attempted to equate those opposed to the elections bill with the insurrectionists of January 6, suggesting that the fate of democracy depends on the outcome.
Next, he accused Georgia Republicans of putting up obstacles to voting, which he said are aimed at suppressing the Black vote.
“They’re making it harder for you to vote by mail,” Biden said. Georgia voters will now have to request an absentee ballot rather than have an application mailed to every voter in the state, as was done in 2020 because of the pandemic.
If asking for a no-excuse absentee ballot is truly “harder” then we are going to need new classifications in this country about levels of difficulty.
The Georgia law limits the number of ballot drop boxes, which Biden argued contributes to this idea of voter suppression. Of course, there will still be drop boxes and, here’s a thought, voters could put their ballots in a mailbox.
Much has been made about the prohibition against handing out food or water to voters waiting in line at the polls. The President and others portray this in Biblical and apocryphal terms. In fact, it protects voters from being harassed by campaign workers trying to ply voters with goodies.
Nothing prevents voting locations from putting up hydration stations, and more importantly, according to a report by CBS, “counties with any precinct with over 2,000 voters last election or one that kept voters waiting for over a hour to vote must create an additional precinct or add more resources to reduce wait times.”
The Georgia law requires at least 17 days of early voting including two Saturdays. There is also an option for counties to offer Sunday early voting to accommodate the “souls to the polls” drive which is popular in the Black church community.
Biden, the Democrats, and all Americans regardless of political persuasion, should be concerned about threats to democracy. The January 6 insurrection and the continued adherence by many Republicans to “The Big Lie” about the 2020 presidential race sow seeds of doubt about our elections.
Donald Trump makes it worse by continuing to claim the election was stolen and that it can happen again. And now Biden is adding fuel to the fire by suggesting the outcome of the voting rights bill is a choice of “democracy over autocracy.”
That is a straw man argument, and a poor one at that.