President Joe Biden has called Georgia’s new election law “Jim Crow on steroids.” Major League Baseball has withdrawn the All-Star Game from Atlanta in retaliation for the law. And The Washington Post and The New York Times allege the law is the first step in a Republican plot to suppress Black votes nationwide.
That all sounds horrible, but here are three reasons you should relax.
Reason 1: The law is nothing like Jim Crow, let alone the old bird on steroids. In Georgia, the height of the Jim Crow effort to deny Black voters their rights was a law declaring that primaries would be whites-only affairs, a move the Supreme Court struck down in the 1940s. Beyond that stark example of racist policies, voter suppression efforts in the state included knowledge tests, poll taxes and an informal system of white poll workers, all of which made it so hard for Black citizens to vote that they eventually gave up. There’s nothing even vaguely like that in Georgia’s new law.
Reason 2: Even if there were outrageous voter suppression efforts underway in Georgia as Democrats warned about in 2018 and 2020, the record shows that determined voters are going to find a way to cast their ballots. Voting broke records in both those years. Here’s how Nate Cohn put it in The Times: “And yet the law’s voting provisions are unlikely to significantly affect turnout or Democratic chances. It could plausibly even increase turnout. In the final account, it will probably be hard to say whether it had any effect on turnout at all.”
Got that? One reason is that the law increases the opportunity to vote by adding more days of voting. A second is that liberal reforms to encourage voting by making it easier don’t increase turnout very much, so getting rid of them doesn’t matter much either.
Flaws in Georgia election law
Reason 3: And regardless of the flaws in Georgia’s new election law, of which there are many, the law remains more liberal than in some states run by Democrats. For instance, there are more days of early voting or no-excuses absentee voting. Nobody is suggesting a boycott of New York or Delaware.
So take a deep breath and remember one thing: Republicans bemoaning the controversy over Georgia’s law have only themselves to blame. Despite Donald Trump’s accusations to the contrary, Georgia’s last election went just fine without any of these changes. Republicans didn’t need to pass a new law at all.
David Mastio is USA TODAY’s Deputy Editorial Page Editor. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMastio