The battle over voting

By Laura Haight

First, the good news. In South Carolina, there have been twice as many bills filed to expand voting rights (15) as there are to restrict them (7). The bad news is the odds are against the expansive bills becoming law.

Reducing the number of polling places for municipal elections, changing the excuses required for early absentee voting (including having to show a letter of proof from your employer), reducing early voting days, and requiring that witness signatures on absentee ballots include a driver’s license number or voter ID number, are just some of the changes on the table. You can find the bill numbers in this database from the Brennan Center.

Another bill (H.3444) would dramatically shift the balance of the state’s election commission in favor of the ruling party. (Guess it never occurred to them that a Democrat could be governor one day..). The LWV says this bill is not getting fast tracked to make the crossover deadline of April 6, but that doesn’t mean it won’t still become law. That bill has the explicit support of Gov. McMaster, who sent the Legislature a two-page letter using the Heritage Foundation’s Voter Fraud database as support for this “persistent and pervasive threat to the strength of our democracy.” He cites the foundation’s 1,311 “recent” cases of voter fraud. That’s true IF your definition of recent is something that happened over the last 13 years. Taking the number of cases that Republicans themselves cite and the number of votes cast, the chance of voter fraud is .000085 percent – less than your odds of being struck by lightning. Twice.

It’s a bad time in Georgia

Leading the nation in suppression, our western neighbors distinguished themselves with some of the most extreme voting measures yet. The topper: It’s now a crime to give food or water to people waiting in line to vote.

Rep. Park Cannon, above, is now charged with two felonies after being summarily arrested, cuffed, and dragged out of the State House, for the temerity to seek entry to the should-be-public bill signing of Georgia’s massive attack on voting rights. If you haven’t seen the video, it bears watching.

Georgia is not alone, it’s just one of 43 states, including ours, trying to push through 165 bills to restrict access to voting.

How can we influence the outcome?

Coca-Cola, Delta, and Major League Baseball, among others, responded to the push from activists to oppose the new Georgia law but are now facing the backlash. The Georgia House passed a bill to repeal tax breaks it had previously given Delta Airlines, but the Senate killed it just before adjourning for the year. More than 70 Black executives from the country’s largest corporations have signed onto a letter condemning the Georgia actions. According to organizer Ken Chenault, the former CEO of AmEx”: “There is no middle ground here. You either are for more people voting, or you want to suppress the vote.” 

Major League Baseball decided to move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta, which has set off a firestorm of righteous indignation, boycott chatter, and, from US Rep. Jeff Duncan (SC-3), legislation to remove the organization’s anti-trust protections. Duncan, is not moved to legislate too often. After voting to overturn the results of the election on January 6, he’s signed onto a handful of undistinguished legislation including a bill called the Rush was Right Act that would prevent the Federal Communications Commission from reinstating The Fairness Doctrine. We hope SC-3 voters feel good about Duncan’s form of legislating: He voted against efforts to end this pandemic and rebuild our struggling economy, against extending stimulus support to struggling businesses, he voted against sending $1,400 to families struggling to get back to “normal,” he voted against child care accessibility, against medicaid expansion, and so much more. As a representative from a Southern state, he even voted against an anti-lynching measure.

In Georgia’s case, it seems unlikely actions by corporations or consumers could lead to a repeal of the law. But it does show that pressure on large corporations can have an impact. As we know, the only reason the confederate flag doesn’t fly in Columbia anymore is because major SC businesses and large national organizations like the NCAA pushed back.

With these bills still in debate, we can exert the pressure where it may do the most good – on the state’s major businesses. Corporations and large multinationals have diverse workforces and should balk at having their employees most elemental Constitutional rights restricted.

Greenville County has regional headquarters for two of the state’s largest businesses: BMW and Michelin. Many of the state’s major employers are health care industry’s like Prisma Health, Bon Secours, who depend on being able to attract top talent both in medical students and residents, as well as surgeons and specialists. This database lists the top 50 employers in the state with links to contact information. Let’s start by pushing out letters and phone calls to these businesses – as Georgians have done – to demand that they speak out publicly against the restrictions and obstacles our state reps are seeking to make law.

Be the change you want to see: Help the party with a much-needed donation or volunteer to help!