Some good news from Georgia–and a caveat

The Washington Post reports “after three weeks of early voting ahead of Tuesday’s primary, record-breaking turnout is undercutting predictions that the Georgia Election Integrity Act of 2021 would lead to a falloff in voting.” The story, which has lots of details, continues: “By Friday, the final day of early in-person voting, more than 700,000 Georgians had cast ballots — three times the number in 2018, and higher even than in 2020, a presidential year.”

I hope this news will help focus the electoral reform agenda for the remainder of this year on issues other than whether voters will be able to cast a ballot. First, given the prevalence of election denialists running for office this year who brazenly proclaim they will certify vote tallies only for candidates of their own party (or, to be fair, convey messages essentially to that effect if not in those exact words), it’s essential to bolster the rules and procedures for counting ballots accurately and certifying election results based on those accurate counts. Second, given the structural flaws in the electoral system that fail to aggregate voter preferences into electoral outcomes that reflect the will of the electorate overall–think both of gerrymandering and the flaws of primary elections so evidently on display right now–it’s not enough to accurately count all the ballots that voters exercised their opportunity to cast. For example, according to 538’s redistricting map, only 34 House seats will be highly competitive, a loss of seven such seats during this redistricting cycle.

In Georgia, according to 538, only one House seat is highly competitive, a reduction of one since the previous map. This kind of thing, I believe, is what should trouble us, especially in a highly competitive state like Georgia where statewide races can go either way, as we’ve seen in recent years. Thus, while we should definitely cheer the good news out of Georgia that turnout is way up, showing that voters can cast their ballots, we should make sure that the electoral system as a whole is making those ballots meaningful, by translating the electoral preferences those ballots express into self-government according to the will of the electorate as a whole.

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