Republicans, under fire from Democrats and big business for their national pressure for new limits on voting, defend their proposals as similar or better for access to ballots than the election laws some blue states already have in. books.
In statements and press conferences, Republican leaders have pointed to what they see as a double standard from Democrats and activists who say the bills – and the restrictions newly enacted by Georgia, in particular – are attempts to suppress the votes of the multiracial coalition that propelled President Joe. Biden’s victory last year.
In many cases, Republicans are right. Some traditionally democratic states, including big ones like New York, have long-standing policies that advocates say are anti-election. And some Red States are using best practices to promote voter access. The difference is that many blue states have pledged to liberalize access to the ballot, while states like Georgia and Texas are actively moving in the other direction.
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, a Republican, said on Tuesday his state already offers more early voting days than several other states where Democrats control both legislative houses, as well as the governor’s mansion.
But the Texas GOP-controlled legislature is considering massive packages of bills that would limit early voting options, affect the distribution of polling stations and add penalties for mistakes made by officials in the electoral process. While nothing has landed on the desk of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott yet, Fort Worth-based American Airlines and Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Technologies, which is outside of Austin, have already spoken.
“So if somehow we are accused of being racist because we want to suppress the vote of people of color, I guess New York, New Jersey and Delaware are even more racist. “Patrick said at a press conference, defending one of the bills.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Made a similar point on Monday, saying the same companies criticizing the state’s red bills overlooked the issues elsewhere.
“Wealthy corporations have no problem operating in New York, for example, which has fewer early voting days than Georgia, needs an apology for postal votes and limits elections with refreshments,” he said. he declared. “There is no consistent or factual standard applied here. It’s just a false narrative that is gaining momentum by its own momentum.”
It is an argument that is gaining ground on the right. After the mayor of Denver announced that the city would host the Major League Baseball All-Star game – MLB withdrew from the original host city, Atlanta, to protest Georgia’s new law – some Republicans have claimed that Colorado’s voter ID requirement was similar to Georgia’s, which is considered one of the toughest laws in the country.
Advocates recognize that there is still work to be done in several democratic states.
“It’s not necessarily a partisan thing,” but in New York? “Many election advocates respond, ‘Yeah – and – New York,'” said Justin Levitt, electoral law expert and professor at Loyola Law School at Loyola Marymount University in California, who worked at the Department of Justice. under the Obama administration.
Still, electoral policy pundits have warned Republicans are establishing a false equivalence, and they say the argument used to justify major changes after former President Donald Trump’s electoral loss requires more context.
“Here’s the big difference: New York, New Jersey, Delaware have all moved more and more in recent years to increase voting options, while Georgia, Texas and Iowa have gone in the opposite direction,” he said. said Bob Brandon, president and CEO of the non-partisan Fair Elections Center, which advocates for the elimination of barriers at the polls.
Colorado, for example, “has led the way in expanding the means and options of voting and, as a result, has one of the highest turnout rates of any state in the country,” he said. .
Here is how some electoral laws and proposals compare.
How does Colorado compare to Georgia?
Sen. Tim Scott, RS.C., tweeted Tuesday that Colorado and Georgia both have voter identification laws, while Colorado has fewer early voting days.
This is misleading, thanks to the different ways in which states conduct elections. It’s true that Georgia has more in-person voting days early than Colorado – at least 17, under the new law.
But Colorado, where Democrats control the legislature and governor’s office, runs its elections almost entirely by mail. Ballots are sent automatically to eligible voters, who can choose to vote in person during the 15 days of advance voting and on polling day. Most voters – 94%, according to Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold – chose to vote by mail last year.
The state has automatic voter registration for voters who apply for a driver’s license or interact with certain state agencies and same-day voter registration for those who do not.
In Georgia, voter registration is automatic at the Driver’s Department. According to state law, voters are required to register to vote approximately one month before an election in order to be eligible. The new state law makes it illegal for the state or counties to mail postal ballot requests.
Colorado voters are required to show identification in certain circumstances, but a wide variety of documents are eligible, including utility bills and paychecks. Voters’ mail-in ballots are verified through a signature matching process.
Brandon said the suggestion that Colorado has restrictive election laws is “completely false” and that the state is “among the best” when it comes to electoral politics.
Georgia has one of the toughest voter identification laws in the country, allowing only government or tribal photo IDs, like driver’s licenses, passports, or ID cards. free voters offered by the counties.
While anyone can vote by mail, these voters will now need to include driver’s license numbers or other proof of their identity with the documentation. Before Georgia passed its law, ballots were verified through a signature matching process, as in Colorado.
What about New Jersey, New York and Delaware?
Republicans have also criticized New Jersey, New York and Delaware, Biden’s home state, also focusing on early voting in those states.
Delaware and New York both passed legislation in 2019 to create permanent early voting, while New Jersey did the same last week. When all three states fully implement their laws, more than a week of early voting will be required by law. Texas and Georgia have about two and three weeks of early voting, respectively.
Voting rights advocates have long targeted New York for its restrictive policies and slow pace to pass reforms – like strict limits on mail-in voting – but they applauded the state’s expansion of advance voting in the year latest and its continued efforts to expand postal voting.
Georgia has had both early and no-excuse postal voting for more than a decade, although experts have said stringent identity requirements can create barriers to using these options. .
Texas limits who can vote by mail by mail, although the limits are a bit looser than New York’s, according to a study compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Texas also requires voter ID at the polls.
New Jersey already has a mail-in vote without excuse; Delaware lawmakers are also considering extending postal voting to all voters.
The trajectory of laws and electoral administration must be taken into account, experts said.
“If we want to talk about the comparison of one state to the comparison of another, let’s see what trajectory they are on. There is no doubt that Georgia, which already had a number of limitations, tried to make things even more difficult, ”Brandon said. .
New York has long been criticized for a voting system that tends to favor incumbents by making it difficult to vote, and its electoral system, especially in New York City, has been plagued by favoritism and incompetence. Levitt said the problem was less one of partisanship and more one of “incumbents who fear the electorate.”
“When you have incumbents who don’t value the electorate as potential voters, but as fearful elements of the opposition, you get electoral procedures and practices that are not great,” a- he declared.
Does New York ban giving food to voters at the polls?
McConnell said in a statement Monday that New York is “restricting election campaign via refreshments,” an apparent reference to criticism of Georgia’s ban on giving food or water to people queuing to vote. .
Experts say many states have laws that mention food in election bans, but they say the context of the laws is critical.
New York’s law, which prohibits inciting voters with things like meat, drinks or tobacco, dates back more than 100 years, Levitt said, when political machines rejected voters with promises of things like whiskey and roast chicken.
The New York law also includes an exception to give refreshments to voters at polling stations that sell for less than a dollar – which is likely to cover bottled water.
Having an old anti-corruption law on the books is a lot different than “looking back on that law, in the current context, and saying, ‘Yeah, we need it,'” Levitt said.
“’Someone else fucked up’ is no excuse to screw it up. It’s the crazy part of what about-ism,” he said. “It’s an argument that more jurisdictions should improve.”