GEORGIA ON MY MIND

The Party Puppet: Brian Kemp

I have read all 98 pages of the new Georgia Law with the hefty title of “Election Integrity Act of 2021.” When words like “Integrity” or “Affordable” appear in the title of a law, one might be tempted to ask if that’s true. Today we’ll look at some of the fuss around this new Georgia voting law that one side calls a good move and the other side decries as the return of “Jim Crow” laws.

Let’s start with the bill’s preamble. The writers claim that this bill addresses problems with voting in Georgia. They start with this, “Following the 2018 and 2020 elections, there was a significant lack of confidence in Georgia election systems, with many electors concerned about allegations of rampant voter suppression and many electors concerned about allegations of rampant voter fraud.” That statement is true.

GA Gov. Brian Kemp

What makes this opening so remarkable is that from 2010 to 2018, Brian Kemp, the current Governor of Georgia, was the Secretary of State, the person in charge of elections. Stacey Abrams, the woman who ran against Kemp for Governor in the fall of 2018, claimed that voter suppression ran wild under Kemp. Is this new law correcting the things Kemp got away with or is it a wink and a nod to former president Donald Trump? Would an entire state legislature do this much work just to make Trump’s claim of voter fraud seem more real?

There are three things in play,1. There was a need to reform, clarify and codify various rules and regulations on elections that have been murky for years, 2. The realization that there were too many independent voting methods being used in Georgia’s 159 counties and 3. The state is getting bad publicity with long lines at polling places in the African American communities and appearing to cater to rich, white neighborhoods. By the way, Pennsylvania has a population of 12.8 million people in 67 counties. Maybe Georgia with its 10 million population should consider consolidating their 159 counties into a more manageable structure.

One aspect of the reform makes sense. Georgia has difficulty counting the ballots because each county has different procedures and abilities. Governor Kemp seems to be a spacey kind of guy without a profound understanding of many issues. In April of 2020 he admitted to just learning that asymptomatic people can spread coronavirus, a well-known fact that was discussed on the Coronavirus Task Force conference calls much earlier. He exclaimed surprise by saying, “This is a game changer for us!” and then he announced a shelter-in-place order in the state. He was also one of the first governors to reopen his state right before the big Covid spike.

Voting laws in Georgia after the Civil War were shaped around the dark dogma of segregation. When I moved to Georgia in 1977 and visited Stone Mountain Park, the main building still had segregated restrooms, a remnant of policies before the “Recent Unpleasantness,” as the Civil War was called. The building has since been remodeled but the carved stone faces of Confederate leaders sitting on their stone horses constantly stare down at people of all races.

Most people who follow politics were shocked when Georgia elected a Democratic president in 2020. A voting procedure was put in place to thwart the possibility that one African American candidate running against many white candidates could not “sneak in” with less than 50% of the votes. Once it boiled down to two candidates, the white one usually won. That rule backfired in 2020 when both US Senate races for Georgia were settled in runoff elections and each was won by a Democrat with one of them becoming the first Black Senator of Georgia. Interestingly, that 50% rule was not cast out in the new Election Integrity Act. One would think it would be tossed because without it the Republicans would have maintained at least one Senate seat.

Senators Warnock & Ossoff

It’s not just bloggers and frothing at the mouth liberals who are against Georgia’s new law. Civil rights groups, including the New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter, Common Cause, and the Georgia NAACP have filed federal lawsuits charging that the law’s provisions violate the Voting Rights Act as well as the 14th and 15th Amendments.

Reading between the long lines of the new law, like the long lines at the polls, shows why Brian Kemp’s rollout of this bill was a terrible attempt at leadership and a stellar example of poor communication. Here are some key points.

The bill requires early voting from 9 AM to 5 PM from Monday to Friday but gives counties the option to open as early as 7 AM and close as late as 7 PM. Counties must hold two Saturdays of early voting from 9 AM to 5 PM and they have the option to hold early voting on one or both Sundays during the period. So, the harsh statement that the law ends Sunday voting is incorrect, BUT a county can prohibit Sunday voting and the state can do nothing about it. Not good.

Here’s one that might get some questions thrown at Kemp. Georgia previously conducted identity verification by comparing a voter’s signature on their ballot envelope or absentee voter application with a signature on file. Voters will now need to provide their driver’s license or state ID card when applying for an absentee ballot and provide one of those identifiers or the last four digits of their Social Security number to verify their ballot. The state already requires voters to show a photo ID to vote in-person. Could DNA and fingerprint matching be next? Brian Kemp said he would provide photo IDs for any resident of the state for FREE! Whoopee!

Legislators shortened the window to request an absentee ballot. Voters can now request an absentee ballot starting eleven weeks before the election and ending eleven days before the election. This seems reasonable, but I found this little gem in the lines of text, “A blank application for an absentee ballot shall be made available online by the Secretary of State and each election superintendent and registrar, but neither the Secretary of State, election superintendent, board of registrars, other governmental entity, nor employee or agent thereof shall send absentee ballot applications directly to any elector except upon request of such elector or a relative authorized to request an absentee ballot for such elector.” In other words, the action of mailing an application for an absentee ballot, a great way to promote voting, is now against the law. This was one of Donald Trump’s big complaints. Why don’t they set up a voter registration kiosk at every US Postal Service office, you know, before they close them? And while they’re at it offer Covid vaccines too!

Another provision of the new Georgia law that angers many Americans is this, “No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector, nor shall any person solicit signatures for any petition, nor shall any person, other than election officials discharging their duties, establish or set up any tables or booths on any day in which ballots are being cast: (1) Within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established; (2) Within any polling place; or (3) Within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place.”

For many years, a federal election law has been in place dealing with “electioneering” at voting locations and most states have at least a 100-foot restriction on campaigning within that area. This food and water prohibition when voter turnout is so great seems onerous, inhuman and cruel. It assumes the person giving the water or food is doing so for nefarious reasons. If a county cannot shorten the lines, then they should provide food and water.

The period between general elections and runoffs has been condensed from nine to four weeks, and that is probably good. Why was such a lengthy time needed previously? The act also sets more clear requirements for challenging a voter’s registration. “Ballot selfies” are banned. The law explicitly prohibits voters from taking a photo of voting machines or their absentee ballot. The state will also set up a voter intimidation hotline, which is good because groups of TRUMPERS were present at many polling locations. Some provisional ballots will have new restrictions. Georgia constantly purges their voter rolls and there have been cases of voters incorrectly thinking they were registered but being asked to use a provisional ballot. I have no idea if those are even counted.

Here’s the worst part of this new law. Trump couldn’t get Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to cheat for him, and Brian Kemp said he had no power over the Secretary’s role, so they have changed the structure of their government. The bill demotes the secretary of state from chairing the State Election Board, with the legislature now appointing a “nonpartisan chair” of the five-person board. The Georgia Secretary of State will be a non-voting, ex-officio member. Yes, my friends, the Republicans, you know, they guys who preach “let’s not make the government bigger” just added another layer to government.

It’s clearly a head-up-their-collective-asses move that could come back to more than haunt them. The legislature has the power to fire any chairperson of the State Election Board they disagree with, even if it involves their own election bid. When you use the word “non-partisan” and then codify “conflict of interest,” you end ethics oversight. Why would Brian Kemp participate in weakening the power of the executive branch of government? Is he a true constitutionalist or a saboteur? Seriously, what would keep the legislature from dismissing the chair of the Georgia Election Board, getting rid of all its members, decreeing the election for whoever they want and stealing a victory from the jaws of defeat? Nothing!

Georgia will now have separate Democratic and Republican primaries for special elections and that’s the right thing to do. Independent candidates who wish to send out absentee ballot applications to voters must clearly state that the application is not coming from a government office and is not a ballot. They are also prohibited from sending applications to voters who have already requested a ballot on their own or who have already voted absentee. So, how would a candidate know such things about a voter? Also, isn’t mailing an application against the law?

Not everything in this law is bad, but you must read through a lot of bullshit to uncover its positive aspects. That makes cheering for it difficult. Brian Kemp always seems defensive and he’s a lousy salesperson. He and other Trump boys and girls like Ron DeSantis in Florida and Greg Abbot in Texas are so busy defending themselves they never smile or explain why the things they do are good for the people they represent. They carry forward the grievance philosophy of telling us how bad things are and then make them worse by idiotic laws such as prohibiting food and water for voters. They care more about telling voters what they can’t do while not giving a hoot about saving voters lives by mandating mask wearing. They’re more like nuns than leaders. Away with that wooden ruler, Mr. Kemp, just make it easier to vote!

Book for the Recovery – Build Back Better!

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Great companies hire great people. This short, easy-to-read book will help you recruit, review and refocus your new workers into the style and culture of your company. Motivating people to do great work will manage turnover and keeping good workers at your company will maintain your success. Employee inspiration makes a positive difference in our competitive world. HOW TO HIRE GREAT PEOPLE covers everything, including testing, training, tricks and tips. Follow this guide and you’ll assemble strong teams with smart workers, and you’ll learn some time-tested techniques about how to keep them.

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The book that tells it like it is…

Gold, God, Guns & Goofballs: If you only read one chapter of this book, try “Take a Knee for America” and think about our never-ending conflicts between minorities and the police. I’m not asking you to take a stand but having a deep and honest conversation about why some people think the way they do would be productive. This is a book for the moment which seeks to start a conversation about peace. And if you are worried about social media, you really should check out the chapter called “Social Media Menace.”

Get the Kindle Version HERE. Or order your paperback edition HERE.

 


WHY REPUBLICANS HATE VOTERS

GOP Thinks Voting Should Be Hard

My head is about to explode from the sheer number of people who lie to get what they want, but before I have a grand mal seizure, I’ll take a deep breath and follow the facts. It seems that one of our political parties has a plank in their platform against voting. Some call proposed voting law changes suppression, some call them racism, I call them what they are, BULLSHIT!

In our representative government, we elect people to carry out the general wishes of the citizens. Once we get past, “all men are created equal” and “the pursuit of happiness,” we all must go with the will of the majority. Sure, a minority can voice their grievances and wants, that’s America buddy, but when the vote is taken in Congress, the new bill, or act or regulation has been passed by the majority. It’s important that our elections be open and fair so the winners ascend to power with the mandate of a majority of voters.

That brings us to sore losers, who tend to get aggressive right after they get shellacked in an election. Republicans took a beating in 2020, and their first reaction was trying to use the ancient form of voter suppression called Gerrymandering. I won’t get into the details of that evil act here, so if you’re interested you can learn a lot by following the link. The next thing the bastards try to pull off is enacting laws to keep certain “kinds” or classes from registering and voting.

What Would MLK Jr. Think

From History.com we see, “Jim Crow laws were a collection of state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation. Named after a Black minstrel show character, the laws—which existed for about 100 years, from the post-Civil War era until 1968—were meant to marginalize African Americans by denying them the right to vote.” Using tactics from voter taxes to intelligence tests, the white men in power wanted to keep the African Americans from having a say in the American political system. They feared the leaders that Black people would elect.

And that brings us to what is happening today. The election of 2020 took place during a global pandemic, and most reasonable people welcomed changes to voting procedures. Both Republicans and Democrats endorsed and allowed mail-in voting. the expansion of absentee voting and early vote counting to speed up the process, but no one foresaw that this would dramatically increase the number of people voting. 66.7% of those eligible to vote engaged in the process and only two previous elections had greater turnouts, 82.6% in 1876 and 73.7% in 1900.

Out of 239 million eligible voters, more than 159 million registered voters cast ballots in the 2020 general election. Some people are arguing that there are only 133 million registered voters in the US, but that’s not true. So, what is true? I spent some time on the US Bureau of Census website today, and I could not find the exact number of registered voters for 2020, short of making my own spreadsheet of all the state data posted there. According to Reuters they first reported that, “Around 239,247,182 people were eligible to vote in 2020. While there is no available “official” figure yet for nationwide registered voters for 2020, most centers for voter information believe that 66.7% turned out to vote.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “As of February 19, 2021, state lawmakers have carried over, pre-filed, or introduced 253 bills with provisions that restrict voting access in 43 states, and 704 bills with provisions that expand voting access in a different set of 43 states. Note that, in some cases, a single bill can have provisions with both restrictive and expansive effects.”

These legal maneuvers are based on two factors. First, the Republicans lost the White House, and they believe Donald Trump’s argument about people rigging the system with mail-in voting. Second, they believe that some of the Covid-19 provisions should be rolled back. They have an ongoing belief that registration should be more difficult, and that people should show a picture ID and vote in person to guarantee the accuracy of the vote. As our modern, technological world advances, these Luddites are saying we should go back to paper ballots, in person voting and NO MAIL-IN VOTING. That last bit is based on another tall tale of Donald Trump that Republicans will never win another election if mail-in voting is allowed. Why are they listening to him? He’s a loser.

I must ask if writing a law about something you don’t like will hurt Americans. Having any Democrat in office will not hurt citizens. After all, they voted for him or her and we’ve had many of them in office throughout the course of our history. Of course, you don’t like losing, but that is no reason to mess up the system. It’s not just voting rights that you are attempting to take away.

More than 82 anti-transgender bills were introduced in the 2021 state legislative sessions, surpassing the 2020 total of 79, and marking the highest number of anti-transgender bills in history. It’s clear that many people are bothered by certain types of sexual orientation, but those citizens aren’t hurting anyone. These state laws are focused on sports and restrooms. They don’t want a young man who identifies as a woman playing women’s sports because, they say, that’s unfair. And even more important than Betsy not getting that college sports scholarship is her having to pee in the same room as “those people.” Are we really going to write laws that hurt minorities?

Our representative form of government is being challenged left and right. You may think that Marjorie Taylor Greene is unfit to be in Congress, but hey, the voters put her there. I am sure if a reasonable Democrat ran against her today, she would not be reelected, but it’s too late now. The only way to stop her from pushing her whacky beliefs and conspiracies on America is a majority of voters having their say at the polls. If rolling back voter’s rights keeps people like Ms. Greene in Congress, I am against them. If blocking Blacks from voting on Sunday is suppressing the vote, courts should just rule against it. If Georgia makes a law that prohibits bringing water and food to people in a voting line, then something is seriously wrong. If Sunday voting and mail-in voting are allowed, maybe there wouldn’t be those long lines.

The headline on this post might make people defensive but let me share a recent encounter with one of my doctors. He actually said, “We have too many people voting in elections. We should only let certain people vote.” That is the same argument John Adams and Thomas Jefferson put forth to keep women from voting. They believed women would disrupt the results because they were so ill-informed. Of course, African Americans couldn’t vote because they weren’t even “whole people.”

Republicans would be better off finding more appealing candidates than suppressing the vote, and Democrats would be more productive if they didn’t have to run around suing those states trying to pass unfair voting laws. Let the people vote. When they do, sometimes you get a Biden and other times you get a Greene. Let’s just make sure the good guys do the right things and let the votes fall as they will.

Book for the Recovery – Build Back Better!

How to Hire Great People: Tips, Tricks and Templates for Success

Great companies hire great people. This short, easy-to-read book will help you recruit, review and refocus your new workers into the style and culture of your company. Motivating people to do great work will manage turnover and keeping good workers at your company will maintain your success. Employee inspiration makes a positive difference in our competitive world. HOW TO HIRE GREAT PEOPLE covers everything, including testing, training, tricks and tips. Follow this guide and you’ll assemble strong teams with smart workers, and you’ll learn some time-tested techniques about how to keep them.

Kindle and Paperback Click Here

The book that tells it like it is…

Gold, God, Guns & Goofballs: If you only read one chapter of this book, try “Take a Knee for America” and think about our never-ending conflicts between minorities and the police. I’m not asking you to take a stand but having a deep and honest conversation about why some people think the way they do would be productive. This is a book for the moment which seeks to start a conversation about peace. And if you are worried about social media, you really should check out the chapter called “Social Media Menace.”

Get the Kindle Version HERE. Or order your paperback edition HERE.