They’re doing it again. Just as expected.
With early voting underway, Georgia Republicans are trying to paper over their deliberate attempts to make it more difficult for groups who often favor Democrats to vote.
Gabe Sterling, a top official in the Georgia secretary of state’s office, is leading this disinformation effort.
I wrote about it last week: Sterling, starting with the first day of voting, has touted relatively high early voting numbers as evidence voting is and will be seamless in Georgia for this year’s midterm elections.
He's essentially asking: How can we be stopping people from voting if so many people are casting ballots? And Republicans are relying on mass stupidity to make this argument.
It's as if the current voting rate couldn't possibly be higher. As if we haven’t been watching Sterling's party engage in racist gerrymandering and pass a suite of voting laws so restrictive, it’s under investigation by the Justice Department. For the record: Even the conservative-tilted Supreme Court has sided with a federal judge who ruled parts of Georgia’s voting system disadvantage Black voters.
But Sterling put on his indignant face Thursday in a FOX Business appearance, scoffing at allegations Georgia’s demonstrably discriminatory voter suppression law is racist. He became downright blustery at one point.
“Frankly, I was getting more and more pissed,” he said of the claims from Democrats and others who’ve compared Georgia’s voter laws to the Jim Crow era. “I was getting angry every time I heard it, because I knew this law was protecting people’s rights to vote.”
My initial response?
Some of the measures Sterling touts as “protecting people’s rights to vote” — like new voter identification requirements that may function as an effective poll tax — are methods the DOJ listed in its lawsuit as potentially discriminatory to Black voters. Which fundamentally gets at what his state party is doing: restricting the right to vote while maintaining a veneer of legitimacy.
If Sterling truly minded being called a racist, he would discourage his party from enacting racist voter policies. And he should also speak with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who’s been recorded complaining about high nonwhite voter registration.
Nonetheless, Sterling spoke of a “playbook” Democrats use as if he’d sniffed out a mysterious plot. Here is his genius at work.
“Since 2014, Stacey Abrams has poll tested the term ‘voter suppression,’” he said. “They have nothing else to run on. They have given [voters] nothing else to vote for in the state. So they have to keep saying it.”
Of course, there’s a reason Abrams — Kemp's Democratic gubernatorial challenger this year — and others interested in voting rights have used the phrase “voter suppression” a lot since 2014. Just one year prior, conservatives on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, removing the preclearance requirement for states with a history of voter suppression — like Georgia — to approve alterations to voting laws with the Department of Justice. And Republicans nationwide swiftly moved to use the power they had to curb voting rights.
The nefarious “playbook” Sterling referred to is, to put it plainly, observing voter suppression taking place and talking about it.
Sterling is evidence of the fact that the conservative movement’s assault on free and fair elections didn’t begin with Trump, it doesn’t revolve around Trump, and it’s not necessarily aligned with Trump’s personal interests. Sterling, for example, resisted Trump’s ham-handed attempts to sow doubt about Georgia’s 2020 election victory for Joe Biden. As I’ve said about Sterling’s boss, Brad Raffensperger, this doesn’t mean Sterling is a defender of democracy. It just means he disagreed with Trump’s specific method of destroying it.