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Analysis: What to make of Georgia's new voting law

Republican Governor Brian Kemp has signed what voting rights groups say is the most draconian bid to suppress Black votes since the 1960s. The expansive measure makes it harder to register to vote and to fulfill the ultimate democratic right — part of a national Republican effort to influence future elections after Trump’s 2020 loss.
Every Election Day, there are scenes of long lines outside polling stations, of people patiently waiting in line for hours to vote. Those videos mostly feature African American faces, because access to polling places is limited in urban areas where minority and poor people often live. This is why the ban on bottles of water seems so crucial, and targeted.
The law also allows state authorities to intervene in county election offices and remove local officials, prompting fears that Republican state officials could overrule authorities in heavily Democratic counties — exactly what Trump tried to force them to do after Joe Biden’s win in November. Voters will also now face less time and more restrictions to cast mail-in ballots. While the bill expands early voting across the state, it curbs some access granted during the pandemic in populous counties where minorities live.
This is happening countrywide. In Texas, for instance, Republican leaders argue it’s unfair for people to have wider access to voting in a big crowded (Democratic) city like Houston, than citizens in a small, sparsely rural county.
Republicans dismiss claims that they are deliberately targeting Black voters or trying to hold back a tide of increasingly diverse Americans who reject their hardline White, cultural conservatism. They claim voters no longer believe the system is fair. But those doubts were fanned by Trump’s flagrant lies about fraud that didn’t exist in 2020.
Most evidence suggests that the GOP, desperate to cling onto power, is systematically trying to make its supporters’ votes more valuable than others’. That is the antithesis of democracy. But it’s a familiar trick in US history.

‘Is this patriot enough?’

An elected official in Ohio, fed up with people questioning his patriotism, bared his chest as proof during a town meeting last week. Lee Wong came to America when he was 18, and retired from the Army after two decades of active duty service. “There are some ignorant people that will come up to me and say that I don’t look American or patriotic enough. Now that just gets my goat,” Wong, 69, said during a meeting of the West Chester Township Board of Trustees. Noting that he has been a US citizen longer than many of his constituents have been alive, he opened his shirt and pointed to scars from his military service. “Here is my proof. Now is this patriot enough?”

‘All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.’

Dr. Deborah BirxDr. Deborah Birx
One of the top doctors behind the Trump administration’s botched pandemic response has come to a haunting conclusion: Hundreds of thousands of Americans could have been saved.
In a major CNN documentary, Dr Deborah Birx says that the previous White House’s failure to slow the spread of Covid-19 had a huge human cost. “I look at it this way. The first time we have an excuse,” Birx said. “There were about a hundred thousand deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.”
By the end of this week, more than 550,000 Americans are expected to have died from Covid-19. The thought that most of those who died could still be alive but for better leadership in the White House, states and cities is a terrible one.
Certainly Trump, who aggressively pushed for the country to remain open in defiance of scientific advice, deserves blame. As do several Republican governors who caused another wave by reopening in the summer. But Birx’s remarks also raise deeper questions: Is the United States, with its natural distrust of centralized authority, reverence for individual freedom, and deep political divides simply constructed in a way that makes fighting a pandemic more difficult? And what is the right balance between saving lives by following the advice of medical professionals and sustaining livelihoods by protecting the country’s economic health?
President Joe Biden has pleaded with Americans to stay strong for a few more months until most people are vaccinated. But many state governors are already dropping restrictions at shops, restaurants, bars and for businesses — a suggestion that more than half a million deaths, with more to come, is simply the price they’re willing to pay.
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