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Ethics & Religion
March 17, 2021
Column #2,066
Republicans Impose Voter Suppression Bills
By Mike McManus

Chagrined by their loss of the White House, Republicans rolled out a tidal wave of 165 voter suppression bills in 43 states. These proposals primarily seek to (1) limit mail voting access; (2) impose stricter voter ID requirements; (3) slash voter registration opportunities; and (4) enable more aggressive voter roll purges.

Arizona leads the nation in proposed voter suppression legislation with 19 restrictive bills. Pennsylvania comes in second with 14 restrictive policy proposals, followed by Georgia with 11 bills and New Hampshire (10 bills).

Nearly half of restrictive bills seek to limit mail voting. Republican legislators are taking aim at mail voting at every stage with proposals to circumscribe who can vote by mail, make it harder to obtain mail ballots and impose hurdles to complete and cast ballots. Their broad goals is to limit voting by minority voters who voted in record numbers in the 2020 election.

Georgia and Arizona, which narrowly voted for Biden as President, have introduced 22 bills in each state to restrict voting access. The Georgia House passed a bill which proposed to eliminate early voting on Sunday - taking direct aim at the longtime "Souls to the Polls" tradition in which black churches bussed church attendees to the polls on the Sunday before Election Day. Last year, 71,764 Georgians took advantage of early Sunday voting, 37% of whom were black.

Their broad participation was a major reason Biden won Georgia by less than 12,000 votes and two Democratic U.S. Senators were elected.

Georgia also added a voter ID requirement for mail-in ballots, and reduced the time voters have to request ballots that election officials have to mail out and limit the use of ballot drop boxes as well as barring counties from adding extra early voting hours.

Georgia Senate Republicans introduced a bill that would end no-excuse absentee voting entirely in the state. It would also impose new ID and witness signature requirements, including one mandating that voters include a photocopy of their ID to be counted. Under the bill only those required to be absent, are disabled or over 65, or observing a religious holiday can vote by mail if they meet all other requirements.

Arizona and Pennsylvania have introduced bills to eliminate the permanent early voter list, as did Hawaii, and New Jersey. Oklahoma's bill proposes an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to prohibit delivery of an absentee ballot to anyone who has not submitted an application notarized or signed by two witnesses.

Republicans control both House and Senate and the governor's office in these states - guaranteeing passage of bills to limit minority voting.

Montana Republicans are pushing to end Election Day voter registration. Missouri Republicans are seeking a new voter ID requirement.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has proposed a measure that could be the "worst voter suppression legislation" in the country. It would ban mail-in ballots, restrict the use of drop boxes and impose tougher signature requirements.

Nearly half of the new restrictive bills are aimed at limiting mail balloting. Multiple bills in Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Dakota and Oklahoma are among those aimed to eliminate no-excuse absentee voting entirely. My wife and I voted by mail for the first time in 2020 and were delighted to do so rather than waiting in long lines during the pandemic to vote on Election Day.

Legislators in Pennsylvania and Virginia have introduced bills that would ban the use of ballot drop boxes. An Arizona bill would ban absentee ballots from being submitted by mail.

By contrast, 37 states have introduced, prefilled or passed 541 bills to expand voter access. Of course, these are in states with Democratic legislatures. However, even if passed, they would not affect the anti-Black bills being passed by Republican legislatures.

Democratic attorneys are fighting in each state to defeat laws to disenfranchise voters. They will take any voter suppression laws that pass legislatures to court to block them. Many of the provisions, particularly in southern states with a history of voter discrimination, would have been subject to the pre-clearance requirement under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Of course, court challenges to voter suppression laws could be vetoed by the ultra-conservative U.S. Supreme Court.

Most importantly, House Democrats have passed sweeping voting legislation over unanimous Republican opposition that would be the largest overhaul of US election law in a generation. House Resolution 1 would restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, strike down hurdles to voting and bring transparency to a murky campaign finance system. It would allow anyone to vote by mail.

Yet it is unlikely to pass the Senate, where Republicans could demand a filibuster vote of 60 where Democrats only control 50 seats.

Sadly, voter suppression seems impossible to stop.


Copyright (c)2021 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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