Brad Raffensperger and Rusty Bowers defended efforts to make it harder to vote in their states


I was traveling most of Tuesday, so I had to catch up on the drama during the hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021 on various evening reruns. Without a doubt, the testimony of former Arizona President Rusty Bowers and Brad Raffensperger and Gabriel Sterling of Georgia was fascinating, and I’m certainly glad they chose not to break federal law and /or to revise the Constitution in the name of El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago and his clownish legal team. But a thought haunted me. The fact is, the bogus voter scheme was just one more front in the Conservative war on the franchise, and the war continues on many fronts, including voter suppression laws, the voter cage and partisan gerrymandering. Discrediting the results of an election makes those battles easier to win.

This, of course, was the game plan the Bush campaign followed in Florida, until the Republican legislature threatened to send its own voters list to Washington, no matter what the final recount revealed. What happened to election officials in 2020 in those swing states was just the Brooks Brothers riot in Miami-Dade County, at large, and turned nationwide. (Also, in 2000, groups of conservative hooligans surrounded Vice President Gore’s residence chanting, “Get out of the Cheney house.” Vice President Liz Cheney must have had fun at the time.) The difference between then and now is that George W. Bush had Jim Baker running things and the previous president had Rudy Giuliani, which is kind of like one side having Talleyrand and the other hiring Crazy Guggenheim.

And, of course, after Barack Obama won two terms, the end of the voter suppression strategy intensified, aided by an increasingly loose conservative majority on the Supreme Court. And here, it’s important to remember that justifying attacks on the franchise on the basis of “election fraud” is as crass a lie as spreading the story that the 2020 election was rigged. Nonetheless, elected Republicans in dozens of states have used it to justify gross violations of voting rights, an effort that was hugely helped when Chief Justice John Roberts declared Jubilee Day and gutted the law. on voting rights Shelby County vs. Holder nine years ago. Arizona and Georgia jumped in with all four feet.

A year ago next month, in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the Supreme Court pretty much ended the VRA once and for all. The Court upheld an Arizona law that prohibited so-called “voter harvesting” and also allowed Arizona to drop ballots even accidentally at the wrong polling place. Rusty Bowers signed an amicus memoir in support of the law as it moved toward its upholding by Judge Sam Alito and his colleagues. The case was the usual “voter fraud” bullshit.

The Ninth Circuit created a test that every jurisdiction would fail. It finds a violation of the Voting Rights Act based on either simple statistical disparity (out-of-precinct voting) or anecdotal evidence (harvesting ballots), combined with historical discrimination. This approach deviates from the Voting Rights Act and prevents states from experimenting with political solutions. For public decision-makers like Amici, these effects are devastating. The Court should apply the statute as written and free states to fulfill their role as laboratories of democracy.

I mean really. We’re using that last bit as a punchline here.

Meanwhile, in March 2021, Georgia passed a voter suppression law that was so egregious that Major League Baseball withdrew his All-Star Game of Atlanta in the 11th hour, a decision supported by the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola. But not by the Georgian State Secretary.

“Democrats and national media claiming that Georgia’s electoral reform will ‘narrow access’ to voting are just partisan arguments, not facts,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said today. Governor Brian Kemp signed the bill into law on Thursday. “Cries of ‘voter suppression’ from those on the left ring hollow,” Raffensperger said. He continued, “I’m a straight shooter. I call it as I see it. I did this to the chagrin of many in my own party when I exposed the false claim that Georgia practices systematic voter fraud. And I do now.

Raffensperger was kind of stuck. He couldn’t defend the new law with the usual vaporous allegations of “voter fraud”, since he had recently become famous for standing up to a president* on the same issue. Instead, Raffensperger argued that the new Georgia law was intended to develop suffrage for all citizens of Georgia, a goal that hasn’t been evident among Republicans in the state for a while now. And he fails to mention one of the most troubling provisions of the new law: it essentially disorganizes Raffensperger’s own office, removing the post of Secretary of State as chairman of the Georgia Election Board, leaving the board to be run by Republican hacks.

(More obnoxiously, Raffensperger gave an interview to Time in which he seemed on both sides of the issue in comparing Stacey Abrams to Donald Trump: “I would say that just puts us under more scrutiny from both sides. It all goes back to our 2018 gubernatorial election with Stacey Abrams. She had a voter suppression story, President Trump had a voter fraud story, so I think we had a relatively high profile for a while.”

Anyway, as we mentioned here at the shebeen the other day, the Department of Justice has brought charges against a man who threatened local election workers, a gesture that we applauded vigorously. When Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman testified on Tuesday, you saw why the actions of the DOJ made us so happy. Before talking about how she and her grandmother were later tormented by goons and hooligans inspired by the president’s rhetoric * and outright lies, Moss explained why she loved working at the polls on Election Day .

Well, my grandmother always told me how important it is to vote and that people before me, a lot of people, the old people in my family didn’t have that right. So what I liked most about my job were the older voters. Young people can usually do everything from their phone or go online, but older voters like to call, they like to talk to you, they like Get My Card. They love knowing I’m here at every election and even students, a lot of parents trust me to make sure their kid doesn’t have to drive home. They will have an absentee ballot, they will be able to vote and I really enjoyed it.

I liked being the one that, if somebody can’t navigate my voting page or if they want a new riding map and they don’t have a photocopier or a computer or all that, I I could mail it to him. I was always excited to send out all mail-in ballots for seniors and people with disabilities. I even remember driving to the hospital to give someone their leave request. That’s what I like the most.

And that was all I needed to hear on Tuesday. Moss and Miss Ruby stood where Annie Lee Moss and Fannie Lou Hamer once stood: black women standing against the forces of unreason and brutal political power. What I concluded from the hearing is that Shaye Moss and Ruby Freeman gave up their free time to make it easier for people to vote, while in their daily work Brad Raffensperger and Rusty Bowers championed efforts which made it more difficult. The war on the franchise happily continues.

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