by Bob Barr
It is not clear exactly when it became such an awful burden on citizens to vote on one particular day at a pre-assigned polling place, but somewhere along the line it became so difficult that pressures on state governments resulted in wholesale changes to how, when, and where people actually vote. The changes thus wrought has thrown the proverbial monkey wrench into what had been a well-established, universally understood, and simple system of voting.
Vast expansion of mail-in balloting, coupled with weeks-long “early voting,” has created a Rube Goldberg-like system that has severely undermined voters’ confidence in elections. It also has planted seeds for myriad legal challenges, such as the one filed last week by the Biden Department of Justice challenging Georgia’s recently enacted ballot reform measures.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, who still harbors deep resentment of Republicans for refusing to confirm him as a Supreme Court associate justice in the waning weeks of the Obama Administration, was joined at the Justice Department podium last Friday by Kristen Clarke. Together they announced that Georgia was being sued for violating the Voting Rights Act.
Kristen Clarke heads the Department’s Civil Rights Division and has long advocated that America is a deeply racist country. Her current position provides the perfect vehicle with which to drive home her opinions, by alleging that laws designed to make it harder to cheat at the ballot box, are nothing more that disguised measures to perpetuate systemic disenfranchisement of Black voters.
The strings for this litigation will be pulled by Justice Department lawyers but the venue will be the federal District Court in Atlanta, which not coincidentally is the home of Stacey Abrams. Abrams, you may recall, ran for governor in 2018 but lost to Republican Brian Kemp. She has spent the last three years refusing to concede, choosing instead to challenge virtually every move Gov. Kemp makes, including his signing of the voting reform legislation last March.
The provisions of Georgia’s voting reform law actually expanded mail-in balloting beyond existing law (and beyond measures in many other states, including Biden’s home state of Delaware), but obviously not enough to satisfy those like Abrams, Garland, and Clarke who equate ballot integrity with racial disenfranchisement. To these critics, requiring that a voter present a valid identification card at the time they vote, is simply further evidence that Georgia remains, as it always has been in their eyes, a racist state.
The picture painted in the opening pages of the Department’s Complaint against Georgia is bleak, but hardly accurate. It is a picture painted on old parchment by dredging up time-worn allegations of racial gerrymandering lobbed against the state by other Attorneys General, and supplemented by statistics of Black voting strength that, at best, are irrelevant to any charge that racial animus guided the hands of Georgia legislators or the Governor.
In the apt words attributed to former Treasury Secretary William Simon, Garland and Clarke are guilty of “using statistics like drunks use lampposts, for support rather than illumination.”
Notwithstanding the vindictive and baseless claims against Georgia, fighting the lawsuit will be time-consuming and expensive. It necessarily will inject further confusion into an already chaotic 2022 election cycle at a time the country is still reeling from myriad allegations of fraud stemming from last year’s contests. This is, of course, precisely what the Biden Administration wants.
There is far more at stake here than the voting laws of one state.
If the Justice Department prevails in its challenge to Georgia’s law, the Biden Administration will have achieved a major victory in its drive to federalize elections, which is the primary goal of H.R. 1, despite the President not having the votes in the Senate to pass that truly terrible piece of legislation.
Another motive for this challenge to Georgia’s voting reforms is to intimidate any other “red” states that might have recently enacted voting reform measures, or which may be planning to do so.
For a President eager to do anything to keep the leftwing extremists in his own Party off his back, and perhaps to assuage his own sense of guilt for having in the recent past eulogized a former Ku Klux Klan leader, abusing the power of the Department of Justice in this way is an easy step to take.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.