Dan Benbow, Tribune News Service
To win in 2024, the Republican presidential candidate must recapture three of the five states that flipped from Donald Trump in 2016 to Joe Biden in 2020. With this goal in mind, GOP legislatures in these states have muscled through dozens of voter suppression bills on party-line votes.
Georgia’s “Election Integrity Act of 2021” (SB 202), which Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law last year, bans public officials from sending out unsolicited absentee ballots, reduces the window of time allowed to request or return absentee ballots, and increases ID requirements for absentee ballots. It also limits the number of absentee-ballot drop boxes and the hours drop boxes are available.
These changes will disproportionately harm Democrats in a state where Biden received 65% of the absentee vote. The omnibus bill will have an especially adverse effect on Black and Latinx voters, who wait around 45% longer to vote in person and have faced notoriously long lines in Georgia.
Arizona’s legislature passed SB 1485, which purges infrequent voters from the early voting list, and SB 1003, which limits the amount of time voters have to fix unsigned absentee ballots. If Arizona Republicans expand their majorities in the midterms, they might be able to pass other voter suppression laws, including HB 2793, which prohibits automatic voter registration.
Taken together, these bills could tip the balance in a state Biden won by only 10,543 votes, where nearly 90% voted by mail in 2020 and 75% are registered on permanent early voting lists.
Similar legislation has been proposed in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — states with Republican legislatures and Democratic governors up for re-election this fall.
Michigan’s Republican-led legislature is trying to slip absentee ballot restrictions and voter ID laws past Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Using an obscure provision in the state Constitution, Republicans are attempting to gather 340,000 signatures — less than 10% of the number of voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial race — for the “Secure MI Vote” initiative.
If 340,000 signatures are collected in a six-month span, Republicans will pass the bill into law while avoiding Whitmer’s veto pen. If they fail to get the signatures needed but Whitmer loses her re-election bid, a new Republican governor could rubber-stamp any of several dozen voter suppression bills drawn up by Republican legislators.
Joe Biden won Wisconsin by just 20,000 votes out of more than 3 million cast. If Democratic Gov. Tony Evers loses his re-election bid this fall, the GOP legislature has voter suppression legislation ready that would harm disabled Wisconsinites and make it very challenging for a Democratic presidential candidate to win the state.
Even if Whitmer and Evers win, the GOP could cement control in Pennsylvania, where the Republican legislature passed House Bill 1300. The “Voting Rights Protection Act” toughens voter ID requirements, reduces the window of time to register to vote and request absentee ballots, and limits the use of absentee ballot drop boxes. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed the bill; his Republican opponent in 2022 would likely sign it into law.
Given the polarised and closely divided nature of the US electorate, a voter suppression boost in these swing states could give the Republican presidential candidate a virtual lock on the electoral college in 2024.
Optimists believed that the 2020 election proved the system works, as Republican judges and state officials followed the rule of law despite Trump’s attempts to overturn the election results.
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