3/22 – Is Georgia a Bellwether?

Published: 3.22.21

Dear All,

On Wednesday, the Intelligence & Counterterrorism Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee will be holding a hearing on “State and Local Responses to Domestic Terrorism: The Attack on the U.S. Capitol and Beyond.” Testifying as witnesses will be Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, and District Attorney of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee County John Chisholm.

This federal oversight comes as the same lies about the 2020 election that sparked the Capitol attack are being used as the justification for more than 250 bills across 43 states aimed at increasing barriers to voting and curbing voting rights. As we closely monitor that effort, all eyes turn to Georgia, where the House is considering a wide-ranging bill to greatly restrict voting. What happens in Georgia is seen as a potential bellwether for bad bills in other states.

Ahead of the Senate Rules & Administration Committee hearing on the For the People Act (H.R.1) this week, there have been some heated conversations about the implementation of the bill and what it means for the states. Danielle Lange, Voting Rights Director at the Campaign Legal Center, addressed underlying concerns head on and stressed the importance of passing H.R.1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act (H.R.4). The Voter Protection Program will have more information to share this week on how H.R.1 would benefit the states.

Here is today’s update:

National Update

Southern Heat: With eyes on the omnibus voter suppression bill in the Georgia House, the conversation is also turning toward the more than 40 other states where legislation with similar goals are being pushed. The Georgia bill would “impose identification requirements for absentee voting; limit the use of ballot drop boxes; disqualify most provisional ballots cast outside of voters’ home precincts; [and] make it a misdemeanor to provide food or soft drinks to voters as they wait in line.” With the March 31 adjournment of the Senate fast approaching, there are less than five legislative workdays to finalize any changes to the election-related legislation.

Voting Rights or Bust: When discussing the filibuster with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press this past weekend, Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock couldn’t have been clearer on the priority he puts on voting rights. The senator said, “we have to pass voting rights no matter what, and it’s a contradiction to insist on minority rights in the Senate, while refusing to stand up for minority rights in the society.”

State Updates

Nevada: Last week, Democratic state legislators introduced a bill, Assembly Bill 321, to continue universal mail-in-voting in Nevada. Using the record voting participation in 2020 as a proof point, Assembly Majority Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson said “we know that it’s safe . . . that it’s been very effective, so I think it made the argument for itself about why it should continue.” Although Republicans and Democrats in the state have generally been on opposite sides of voting legislation this session, when speaking about one of the bill’s authors, Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus said that she believed that the “intent is good.”

Michigan: As efforts to restrict voting access continue in the Great Lake state, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson called for expanded access to the ballot. “Michigan voters elected me because I promised to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat in Michigan elections,” Benson said. “And that’s exactly what I did in the 2020 elections, which saw millions of voters utilize new expanded voting rights, and was audited more than any election in state history.”

North Carolina: Late last week, Republican State Senators Warren DanielRalph Hise, and Paul Newton filed the Election Integrity Act, Senate Bill 326, which “would prevent the collection of any absentee ballots after 5 p.m. Election Day or the date of the primary regardless of when the voter mailed the ballot.” According to Newton, the “goal of the bill is to bring clarity, simplicity and a clear set of rules to ensure everybody’s on the same footing . . . and the overarching goal is to really restore trust, restore confidence in the election process.” The bill sponsors did not consult the state’s bipartisan election commission on the draft of the bill, and Newton admitted the bill would “likely result in litigation.”

Cruz’s Clarion Call: Senator Ted Cruz pushed state legislators to strengthen their efforts to restrict voting access and increase barriers to voting. According to a recording obtained by the Associated Press, Texas’ junior senator claimed H.R.1 would “[lead] to voting by millions of ‘criminals and illegal aliens.’”

Minority Rule?: In a lengthy Mother Jones piece, Ari Berman explores the national and state-by-state effort to influence who gets elected and how. Berman claims that the “only real way to reverse minority rule is through big structural reforms like abolishing the Electoral College, eliminating the filibuster, ending partisan gerrymandering, enshrining a fundamental right to vote in the Constitution, and giving statehood to Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico so as to make the Senate more reflective of the country.”

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