Georgia is increasingly becoming the nation’s political fault line and the results could be a disaster for the state.

At issue is legislation recently enacted by the state that seeks to “fix” the state’s election system. 

Republican supporters of the move say it’s necessary to restore confidence in elections; critics say it’s a move to suppress Democratic voters in minority communities.

Regardless, the state could quickly become the key battleground of national political forces, a situation that could upend Georgia’s business community by forcing its major players to take sides in a lose-lose war.

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The legislation passed by the state makes a number of changes to the state’s election rules. Among the most notable is a new requirement that absentee voters will now have to provide a copy of some kind of ID to vote and it allows the state to take over a local elections board it says has underperformed.

Those things sound reasonable, but the true underlying move wasn’t to “fix” state voting problems, but rather it was a desperate effort by Republican legislators to maintain control in a state that is rapidly changing from Red to Blue. Demographic trends indicate that although Republicans hold power today, that won’t be the case in a few years as younger, more diverse voters grow in influence.

All of this comes on the heels of a hot national election in which the incumbent president was defeated, in part with the help of Georgia that narrowly voted Democratic. On top of that, the state voted for two Democratic senators, a move that tilted the balance of power in Washington in favor of Democrats.

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The undercurrent to all of this is The Big Lie. For months, the former president and his toadies claimed — falsely — that the 2020 election had been rigged and that Democrats had “stolen” the election. None of that was true, but the propaganda was circulated in right-wing media and a lot of voters fell for the ruse.

In effect, Republicans undermined confidence in the state’s election system by repeating the former president’s lies and now seek to “fix” a problem that really doesn’t exist. There was no widespread voter fraud or major election problems in the 2020 election.

In fact, it was the former president who attempted to “steal” the state’s election by strong-arming state leaders to change the state’s voting results in his favor. State leaders refused, drawing the wrath of Trump supporters who believe the state should have ignored the real voting results and given the state to the former president.

Democrats didn’t steal the election, but Republicans attempted to.

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Here’s what’s really happening: Given the looming demographic changes, Republicans are unlikely to keep control of the state’s major offices much longer. So instead of changing their political strategy, they’re attempting to take over the mechanisms of balloting so they can toss close election results in their favor.

He who controls the levers of elections controls the outcome.

We’ve seen that locally where county GOP leaders have sought to change the rules so that they can take over and dominate the county elections board. That board’s two GOP members have sought to block legitimate election results here and to expand the board’s role into policy-making rather than its narrow legal role in overseeing elections.

That’s a microcosm of what’s now happening at the state level. Fair and independent elections aren’t the real goal in all of this — being able to manipulate the outcome is the real goal.

And that’s a threat to the foundation of our democratic system.

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I have no doubt that if the situation were reversed, Democrats would be trying to do what Republicans are trying to do. This isn’t about one party, it’s about a crazy political environment that is leading both parties to adopt a win-at-all-cost mentality. Fairness no longer matters. Truth no longer matters. Honesty no longer matters. Facts no longer matter.

It’s all about winning, period. Do whatever it takes to win — lie, steal, cheat — the method doesn’t matter, only the outcome.

The reason it’s Republicans doing the lying and cheating is because they’re the ones on the defensive in Georgia. They see their ability to win fair elections dwindling in the coming years, so they are doing whatever they can to maintain power.

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But such desperation could backfire.

Monkeying around with the state’s voting system plays into the hands of Democrats who have been claiming for years that the GOP wants to suppress minority voting in the state.

In the past, that claim was largely overstated. Democrats often exaggerated voter suppression allegations as an excuse for their own party’s poor organization and performance.

Now, however, Republicans have actually attempted to do exactly what Democrats have been saying. State GOP leaders very clearly took action this year that is meant to be a slap at minority voters in the state’s urban — mostly Democratic — counties.

One small example: The new law prevents anyone from providing food or water to people standing in line to vote. Most of those long lines exist in urban voting areas which are largely Democratic. In effect, the GOP is hoping that minority voters will get frustrated with long lines and leave before voting, especially if they’re denied water and food while they wait.

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Such a naked attempt to manipulate the system will have two — maybe three — consequences for Georgia Republicans.

First, it will energize the Democratic base in the state to turn out and vote regardless of the new rules. That’s especially true in 2022 when a rematch between Gov. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams is expected to be on the ticket. Abrams is a master at organizing grassroots voting and motivating minority voters to go to the polls. The new GOP legislation gives her something concrete to run against.

Second, the new legislation will bring in a huge amount of outside pressure on Georgia. Some of the state’s large corporations are already getting heat. That will soon extend to boycotts and to a slew of negative publicity for the state. We’re likely to become a national and international pariah. Outside money will flood into state Democratic coffers in a bid to oust Republican control.

The third possible outcome could be some very real problems in 2022 if Republicans become so desperate that they began to take over local elections boards in largely Democratic counties. Such a move could lead to a major court fight, massive protesting and perhaps even election-inspired violence.

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We all saw what happened on Jan. 6 when Trump supporters attempted a national coup by storming Congress. That right-wing mob had been inspired by The Big Lie and was willing to commit violence to achieve the outcome it wanted.

But the same thing could happen from the far left as well. Violence isn’t just a tool of the right, it’s also been done by the left — those of a certain age will remember the 1960s and the left-wing violence that dominated that era.

Given the hysteria in Georgia over the 2020 elections, it isn’t a far stretch to imagine that the state could become a center of violent protests from both the extreme left and right during the 2022 elections. We’re already in the national election spotlight and both sides may want to use that profile to showcase their own violent agendas.

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Georgia had a fair election in 2020. The outcome was legitimate.

That so many people believe otherwise is very troubling.

I fear the worst is yet to come.

Mike Buffington is co-publisher of Mainstreet Newspapers and the editor of The Jackson Herald. He can be reached at mike@mainstreetnews.com.

(5) comments

Drive-by McCarthy

The new law should correct any possible fraud.

William Ledford

Mr Editor. Why not read the bill before you print false information. But this nothing new for the media and the press. Even Joe Biden got 4 Pinocchio's from the left friendly Washington Post for his false statements about the new Georgia voter law.

Randy Durham

Mr. Buffington is right There was no widespread voter fraud in Georgia or anywhere else that would have changed the results of November's election. But Republican officials and their supporters to this day still promulgate the Big Lie. This legislation is based on that lie, that alone makes it illegitimate. It is already being challenged in court and our state is already viewed as full of and being governed by white supremacists. I work online with people from all over the country and I get these comments everyday, it's embarrassing and sad that our state is viewed this way.

The vote was counted three times and the results were the same each time. There was no widespread fraud, there were not thousands of dead people voting, nor any of the other fantastical reasons that were given for the need to pass this legislation. The old saying applies here: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

William Ledford

Another old saying. Be careful of what you wish for. You got Joe Biden.

Randy Durham

And I couldn't be more happy about that.

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