Georgia’s election law and why it’s not easy to lower turnout


Voters will wait in line at the polling place on the Agnes Scott College campus in Decatur, Georgia, on October 12, 2020.  (Nicole Crane / New York Times)

Voters will wait in line at the polling place on the Agnes Scott College campus in Decatur, Georgia, on October 12, 2020. (Nicole Crane / New York Times)

There is nothing unusual about political exaggeration. But when it comes to voting rights, more than exaggeration is happening.

There are real and bipartisan misconceptions, especially about making voting easier or more difficult by mail, which can have a significant impact on turnout and election results. Evidence suggests that this is not the case.

The dispute over the new Georgia election law is just the latest example. The law, passed last week, was accused by Democrats of oppression of voters or as equivalent to Jim Crow.

Sign up for The Morning Newsletter for The New York Times

Democrats are, of course, concerned about the provisions that allow Republican-controlled state legislatures to play a greater role in election administration. The provisions are uncertain, but have potential substantive implications, depending on what the state legislature may do in the future. And the law may be intended to do exactly what progressives are afraid of. Immediately after losing an election, it reorganizes the electorate for the benefit of the Republican Party by making it difficult to vote.

Still, the legislative voting rules are unlikely to have a significant impact on turnout or Democratic opportunities. It can probably even increase turnout. In the final explanation, it’s probably hard to say if it had any effect on turnout.

Georgia law

Georgia can be summarized in several points:

— The law makes absentee voting difficult. You will need a qualified ID to vote by mail. The law also makes it difficult to request and return absentee votes, limits how long people can apply for votes, and limits the number of dropboxes that voters can return such votes directly.

— After all, direct voting can be easier, especially in general elections (although it includes provisions that cut in both directions).

The law is increasing the number of days required for early voting (currently two Saturdays instead of one), including the weekend days that progressives crave. There are also provisions that require large precincts with long lines to add machines, add staff, and divide the precincts. Depending on how this is deployed, it could be a huge win for Georgia’s urban voters, who have dealt with some of the country’s longest routes.

Reductions in the opposite direction are unnecessary and perhaps ineffective restrictions on distributing food and water to people in line to vote. More specifically, but still of limited importance, there are rules that make it difficult to vote provisionally if you appear in the wrong constituency. (It’s worth noting that many states don’t count these votes at all. In the last election, there were only about 10,000 provisional votes in Georgia, including those cast in the right constituency. ).

— Shorten the spill period. The run-off will take place four weeks after the first election, rather than the nine weeks that have been held in federal elections in the last few years. The main result is to reduce early voting to one week instead of three weeks, affecting turnout in low-voting races, where turnout can easily be decisive. There is a possibility.

— Allows the state legislature to play a greater role in election management. Remove the Secretary of State from the chair of the State Election Commission, allowing the Legislature to appoint a majority of the committee, including the chair. Also, depending on the circumstances, the Legislature empowers the County Election Commission to take over.

You may find that these are very important. However, for the purposes of this article, we do not consider them to be “voter restraint” clauses. They do not inherently make it difficult for people to vote by limiting whether they can vote or how they can vote.

Aside from the issue of administrative regulations and intent, the central question about voter oppression is how much turnout reductions (such as early voting and general email voting) reduce turnout and democratic opportunities. about it.

Limited import of convenience voting

For decades, reformers have thought that the way to increase turnout is to make voting easier.

But surprisingly, expanding and making voting options more convenient doesn’t seem to have a significant impact on turnout or election results. This is the result of decades of political science research on early voting, early voting, and absentee voting. One prominent study found that early voting reduced turnout, which is a bit outlier.

There is essentially no evidence that the significant increase in absentee ballots without excuses, where anyone can apply for absentee ballots, has had a recognizable impact on turnout in 2020. That’s not a big surprise. Even universal voting by mail automatically sends a mail ballot to all registered voters (as opposed to all voters having the opportunity to apply for a vote), with a turnout of about 2 It only increases by% and has no partisan advantage.

Believe it or not, turnout increased in states that didn’t have an excuse absentee ballot, as did the states they added for the first time. Similarly, Joe Biden improved Hillary Clinton’s performance by 3 percentage points in the states that added it, but improved by 2.9 points in the states that did not.

According to a more rigorous survey by Stanford University political scientists, vote-by-mail voting without excuses could have increased turnout by a whopping 0.02% in the 2020 elections. This study used a new approach. Researchers compared the turnout of Texas, 65, who was eligible to vote by mail without excuses, and Texas, 64, who wasn’t. Despite the latter group voting by numerous mails, the turnout of 64 was indistinguishable from that of 65.

Like Georgia, Texas did not require identification to vote by mail, but there are strict identity requirements for direct voting.

The voter party composition also seemed unchanged. The proportion of Democratic voters appeared to have risen by two-tenths percentage points. This is enough to decide on a very close election. But it’s so small that it can be statistical noise and has no effect. Social science methods do not provide the level of accuracy needed to determine if this change or any change could move the needle a tenth of a point.

Georgia law, unlike what political scientists tested in Texas, is far from eliminating absentee ballots without excuses. As a result, the effectiveness of the new law may be expected to be even smaller. (Difficulty in absentee voting is worse for the Democratic Party than eliminating it altogether, and the Democratic Party is trying to avoid unnecessary voting refusals for those who may have succeeded in direct voting. You can have an intuition that it might be better to discourage postal voting.)

The Georgia finals vote has little scientific case study, but it still provides another useful example. Due to the short campaign and the holiday season, there were fewer opportunities for pre-voting compared to the general election. Based on the decline in early voting, many analysts have underestimated the final turnout by more than 20%. In the end, turnout was better than expected. The number of voters on election days was higher than in the general election. This is because many people who voted early, except for Christmas and New Year, voted on election day.

Perhaps the turnout would have been higher if there were the same early voting opportunities as the general public. But that may not be the case. And none of this had a recognizable negative impact on Democrats. He was better than the general public, not to mention Democrats.

Why is convenience not important?

How is it possible that eliminating the unexplained absentee ballot, which is loved by millions of voters, will not have a significant impact on turnout or election results?

One simple answer is that convenience is often not as important as you might expect. Most people who are careful enough to vote will bravely face the inconvenience of voting directly. Whether it’s because the inconvenience isn’t that great, or because they’re careful enough to suffer.

Of course, this assumes some convenience. The 6-hour line modifies the calculations of many voters. And certainly, long lines affect turnout. It also assumes that you have some interest. Someone might think: There’s no way I’ll be waiting in line for 30 minutes to vote for a dogcatcher. Similarly, the importance of convenient voting options will probably increase as racing becomes less important.

However, even if the most preferred option doesn’t exist, it means that almost everyone can manage to vote if a convenient option is available. As such, Georgia’s election law efforts to curb long lines can be very important. Not only does it mitigate the already restricted impact of restricting email voting, but it can even exceed it.

Also, convenient voting may not be useful for low turnout voters who basically determine the overall turnout. Voter turnout probably doesn’t think about how to vote a month before the election when they need to apply for an absentee ballot. Those who are thinking about this are probably voters with high turnout. Voter turnout may not know who to support until election day. As a result, you are less likely to take advantage of pre-voting options such as early voting without excuses. This requires early and frequent thinking about elections. You will need to submit an application, fill out a ballot and return it.

As a result, convenient voting methods tend to increase socio-economic bias in favor of voters with high turnout. This method increases the chances that all less interested voters will participate in the vote and will not attract less enthusiastic voters to the vote.

Another reason is that voting restrictions can be backfired by angering and energizing Democratic voters. For example, the law’s restrictions on distributing water in a row may be more likely to mobilize Democrats than to block Democrats from voting. In one recent study, the Supreme Court’s decision to roll back elements of the Voting Rights Act reduced black turnout as subsequent efforts to limit voting by efforts to mobilize black voters were quickly countered. I even theorized that I didn’t let him.

That does not mean that Georgia law or other such law has no consequences. It is enough for many to make voting more difficult and to intimidate or discourage some voters. Many, even a few, completely deprive voters of their rights. Perhaps even a single voter’s disfranchisement is worthy of anger, especially if the law is suspicious or forged, especially if Jim Crow’s disfranchisement is a historical background.

But the intent aside, it means that many such voting rules, such as Georgia, are unlikely to have a significant impact on turnout or Democratic opportunities.

There are consequences to misunderstanding the bet of changing voting methods. Minor changes in voting access can mask larger issues, including the types of potentially important provisions of Georgia law that empower the legislature. For example, the HR 1 bill passed by the Democratic Party in the U.S. House of Representatives in a near-party vote has a significant effect on increasing access to voting, but has relatively little protection from party interference in election administration. Probably.

The recognition that voting law has an existential interest in democracy or the political feasibility of both parties has made bipartisan compromise very difficult. Bipartisanship virtues are often dismissed as naive, of course, but voting law is a rare case where bipartisanship has its own value. After all, democracy depends on the consent of the loser.

This article was originally New York Times..

© 2021 The New York Times Company

Posted on