Elections

When Election Lies Become Government Policy

Former Georgia House of Representatives Minority Leader Stacey Abrams speaks in Atlanta, Ga., November 2, 2020. (Brandon Bell/Reuters)
The same Democrats and media outlets who condemned President Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election are now pushing false election claims of their own.

Election disinformation has reached a new stage. For months, as secretary of state, I have fought for the integrity of Georgia’s 2020 elections. To this day, I defend the accuracy of those elections, even as I acknowledge that they were not perfect, because no election is. But with the Department of Justice now suing to block Georgia’s new election-integrity reforms, lying about elections, and about my state’s election laws in particular, has become the official policy of the federal government.

A lot has changed in the last few weeks. When we announced list maintenance of 100,000 obsolete voter files a few weeks ago, we expected the usual progressive pushback. Joining the chorus of baseless criticism this time was a group of individuals who saw the removal of the 100,000 voter files from the rolls as a sign of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, not realizing — or ignoring — the fact that anyone who had voted in 2020 would not have been eligible for removal in the first place.

There has also been a sudden surge in new support for voter ID. Stacey Abrams and Georgia senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, for example, have suddenly become big supporters of voter ID despite repeatedly referring to the provisions of Georgia’s new election law, which imposes an ID requirement on absentee ballots, as “Jim Crow 2.0.”

However, the change that is most concerning is the sudden mainstreaming of lies about the election within the federal government itself. My family faced threats for standing up for the veracity of Georgia’s elections. We still do. But many of the same politicians and media outlets who praised us for standing up to those threats then quickly turned to pushing election disinformation of their own when it suited their political needs.

Liberal news outlets have pushed the idea that Republicans are trying to “steal” future elections. After condemning President Trump and others for undermining democracy with false stolen-election claims, major outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and others uncritically promoted stolen-election conspiracy theories in their own pages.

Abrams, the leader of the opposition to Georgia’s new election-security measures, has repeatedly claimed that her own election — she lost the 2018 Georgia governor’s race to Brian Kemp by more than 50,000 votes — was stolen. Her entire national profile is based on this Big Lie. But media outlets who have condemned Trump’s own Big Lie seem to have a soft spot for the failed gubernatorial candidate’s conspiracy theories.

And this whiplash-inducing hypocrisy on election lies has now seeped its way into the halls of the Department of Justice. On June 25, the DOJ launched its own lawsuit against Georgia’s new election-security law, attempting to overturn a bill that balanced expanding voter access and ensuring security.

The central lie, and the one that Stacey Abrams and Georgia’s two Democratic Senators are now backtracking from, is that voter ID for absentee ballots is somehow “voter suppression.” For years, liberals have made the same arguments about ID requirements for in-person voting. In reality, the data show that voter-ID laws don’t harm turnout. An Emory University professor found that minority turnout actually increased after Georgia’s voter-ID law was put into place.

Additionally, Georgia voters have long been able to get a free voter ID from the Department of Driver Services or from county registrars. And under the new law, the small percentage of voters who don’t have an ID can use any of several documents that comply with the Democrat-passed National Voter Registration Act, such as a utility bill or a bank statement.

The DOJ lawsuit pushes misrepresentations of the bill’s common-sense restrictions on giving out gifts such as food and water near polling places, implemented after repeated complaints of individuals surreptitiously electioneering as voters waited in line. Voters can still bring their own water. Poll managers can set out water for voters who are waiting. And campaigns who want to provide water can still set up shop outside of the “buffer zone” that the law imposes on polling places (as long as they are offering water to everybody and not in return for voting).

More importantly, Georgia had no Election Day lines in November and January. The average wait time statewide on November 3 was just three minutes, and the average wait time on January 5 was just one minute.

Ironically, if it were successful, the DOJ’s suit could be described as voter suppression in its own right. Georgia’s new law mandates that absentee ballots must be requested no later than eleven days before Election Day. This ensures that voters actually have enough time to receive and return their ballot in the mail by 7 p.m. on Election Day, instead of being disenfranchised by unrealistic timelines. Removing this provision would mean countless voters would be disenfranchised waiting for or returning ballots that could never realistically arrive on time.

The DOJ’s zeal to overturn Georgia’s restrictions on out-of-precinct voting will lead to more disenfranchised voters, too. Georgia voters are only legally allowed to vote in the races occurring in their precinct. As a result, Georgians who try to cast a ballot outside of their precinct lose the opportunity to vote for their precinct-specific local officials. The new law requires election officials to send voters to their correct precinct instead of disenfranchising them, except in the last two hours of Election Day, when time is too short.

Contrary to how it is portrayed in the media, the new Georgia bill actually wrote absentee-ballot drop boxes into state law for the first time. The drop boxes had been authorized on an emergency basis because of COVID-19, but that authorization had expired after the January Senate runoffs. Thanks to the new law, every county will have to have at least one drop box in future elections.

Depending on how a judge rules though, the DOJ’s effort to attack the commonsense election-integrity measures regarding ballot drop boxes could end up eliminating absentee-ballot drop boxes from Georgia law altogether.

For these and many other reasons, I will fight this lawsuit, and I intend to win.

In an effort to portray Georgia’s new election law as Jim Crow 2.0, the Biden DOJ has operationalized the lies and misrepresentations about the law — and made election disinformation official federal policy. This is a tragedy for our country.

I stood up to lies about Georgia’s elections when it wasn’t politically popular, despite threats to my family and to my staff. I did it because I knew that standing up for truth and for integrity was paramount. Though the media and the Department of Justice have chosen to push the same sorts of election lies they condemned only months ago, I’ve never wavered in my defense of the truth and the integrity of Georgia’s elections. I don’t intend to start now.

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We had substantial disagreements but recognize that he will be remembered for a long, consequential career of service to a country that he loved.