“Voting is Surging In Georgia Despite Controversial New Election Law”

Ned flagged this article earlier, mentioned it includes a lot of rich details, but used his post to turn to other issues. Given the controversies around the changes to Georgia’s voting laws over the last year, I thought it was worth including a significant excerpt from the Washington Post piece:

But 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.By the end of Friday, the final day of early in-person voting, nearly 800,000 Georgians had cast ballots — more than three times the number in 2018, and higher even than in 2020, a presidential year….

Defenders of the law accused Democrats, including President Biden and Stacey Abrams, the presumed Democratic nominee for Georgia governor this year, of hyping accusations of voter suppression because it resonated with their base and helped them raise money. They say the turnout numbers prove that the rhetoric around the law was false….

The Election Integrity Act, also known as Senate Bill 202, unleashed a furious backlash when it passed. Biden called it “Jim Crow 2.0.” Abrams accused its authors of “reviving Georgia’s dark past of racist voting laws.” The clothing retailer Patagonia condemned the bill, and Major League Baseball moved its All-Star Game out of Atlanta….

But much of the rhetoric directed at the bill was actually based on draft legislation that was subsequently scaled back. Local and national organizations, including the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, had put enormous pressure on state Republicans to strip out some of the more contentious provisions. Republicans agreed to drop, for instance, language barring most Georgians from voting by mail and curtailing early voting on weekends. They even expanded early-voting hours in the final bill….

Some voters interviewed at polling locations said they were unwilling to take any chances with the new ID requirement. They opted to vote in person this year because they were afraid their ballot might be rejected under the new ID requirements. With drop boxes now required to be inside of polling locations rather than curbside, and accessible only during voting hours, it’s just as easy to vote in person, they said….

“Before the pandemic, Georgians voted in person at the same rate they’re voting in person now,” said Raffensperger spokesman Ari Schaffer. “What we’re seeing is a return to pre-pandemic normal. It may contradict the ‘voter suppression’ narrative but those are the facts.”…

Voting rights groups said they have stepped up their voter registration and education efforts to ensure that Georgians know how to vote under the new rules and are not afraid to do so. With 95 percent of eligible voters actually registered, Georgia currently boasts the highest registration rate in the nation, and voting groups take some of the credit for that.

The requirement that prohibits third-party groups from distributing food or water to voters waiting in line drew sharp criticism last year. Activists are gearing up to work around that rule by setting up tables away from long lines and encouraging voters to step off the line — and for their neighbors to hold their places — if they are hungry or thirsty or weary of standing.

Voting-rights groups and Democrats say they have changed their strategies to mobilize voters under the new rules. In Spalding County, for instance, local activists moved Souls to the Polls to a Saturday, and they defiantly promised that they would work twice as hard if that was what it took to protect voter access.

It’s too early to judge how the new law is going to affect the absentee ballot process. But the overall level of absentee voting appears to be going back to just a bit above its pre-pandemic level in GA. That’s because the controversial law expanded early voting opportunities, and partly because there appears to be fewer virus-related anxieties about voting in person at early voting sites, which will probably extend to in-person voting on Election Day as well.

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