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Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., listens as Stacey Abrams testifies remotely during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voting rights on Capitol Hill on April 20, 2021.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., listens as Stacey Abrams testifies remotely during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voting rights on Capitol Hill on April 20, 2021.Evelyn Hockstein / Reuters

GOP senator probably regrets testing Stacey Abrams on Georgia law

Perhaps Kennedy assumed he'd ask Abrams to list the provisions she objects to, causing her to shrug her shoulders and say, "You know, bad stuff"?

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The Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee held an important hearing this week: "Jim Crow 2021: The Latest Assault on the Right to Vote." With Republican officials nationwide having launched the most dramatic attack on the franchise in generations, the need for the hearing was obvious, and Democrats invited leading voices on voting rights, including Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund's Sherrilyn Ifill, to testify as witnesses.

But it was former state Sen. Stacey Abrams (D-Ga.) whom Republicans seemed especially eager to tangle with.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), for example, apparently thought he could trip up Abrams with a question about her own state's new voter-suppression law. "Tell me specifically," the far-right Louisianan said, "just give me a list of the provisions that you object to."

So, she did:

"It shortens the federal runoff period from nine weeks to four weeks. It restricts the time a voter can request and return an absentee ballot application. It requires that voters have a photo identification or some other form of identification that they are willing to surrender in order to participate in the absentee ballot process."

Apparently underwhelmed, the Louisiana Republican asked, "What else?" At which point, Abrams returned to her indictment of the Georgia law:

"It eliminates over 300 hours of drop box availability. It bans nearly all out-of-precinct votes, meaning that if you get to a precinct and you are in line for four hours and you get to the end of the line and you are not there between 5 and 7 p.m., you have to start all over again."

Kennedy, who initiated this line of questioning, responded, "Is that everything?" As it turned out, no, it wasn't everything. Abrams added:

"It restricts the hours of operation because it now, under the guise of setting a standardized timeline, it makes it optional for counties that may not want to see expanded access to the right to vote. They can now limit their hours. Instead of those hours being from 7 to 7, they're now from 9 to 5, which may have an effect on voters who cannot vote during business hours during early voting. It limits the voting hours..."

Kennedy, interrupting once more, effectively cried uncle. "I get the idea," the senator said. "I get the idea."

What I'm most curious about is what he expected from this exchange. Perhaps Kennedy assumed he'd ask Abrams to list the provisions she objects to, causing her to shrug her shoulders and say, "You know, bad stuff"?

I suppose the senator assumed that Abrams was all show, indifferent to substantive details, and when pressed for specific information, she'd crumble into a post-policy mess.

Kennedy hopefully knows better now.