The present circumstances in Atlanta, in Georgia, and in the country call for a civic renewal. We have just been through the extraordinary impeachment trial of a president, whose own Senate leader called the former president’s behavior disgraceful. Let’s not disgrace ourselves here in Georgia by eviscerating the right to vote, the most sacred element of a democracy and one way to civic renewal.
One of the heartening results of the recent dispute over the election is the defense of the Georgia elections by the Republican leadership here. There is no evidence that voter fraud is a significant problem in Georgia or elsewhere in the United States, as reiterated by Gov. [Brian] Kemp and Secretary of State [Brad] Raffensperger’s repeated assertions that Georgia’s most recent elections were fair and free of any fraud or irregularities that would make any difference. The voting rules and regulations have been identified by the state of Georgia as the Gold Standard for voting procedures. Because we have such a secure and effective system already, so-called reforms that purportedly increase security are unnecessary.
A number of Georgia legislators have stated that they want to protect against any possible fraud by a whole list of changes to the voting procedures. But there was no fraud. However, the argument goes that so many people are convinced that there was fraud, that the legislators must do something about that perception.
Here is another solution: tell the voters of Georgia the truth! There was no fraud in the recent elections, so there is nothing to fix. If there is a perception problem, tell the voters the truth. That will fix the perception problem. If the legislators do not think that will fix the problem, then they have no faith in their own ability to persuade. They should retire from the political arena and let those who can speak the truth in a convincing way lead the state.
It is time to shelve the tiresome lie, started by Donald Trump, that the elections were stolen or illegitimate or fixed in any way. For months, he prepared the electorate to think the elections were fraudulent. It is time for all politicians to persuade the public of the truth. Governor Kemp and Secretary of State Raffensperger told the world the Georgia’s elections were free and fair. There is no reason to damage Georgians with unnecessary voter restrictions.
If anything, more needs to be done to ensure that every Georgian has a viable right to vote. What is needed: same day registration; drop boxes in more locations; more Saturday and Sunday voting; no-excuse absentee voting. And if the legislature is keen on ID requirements, it should invest in a way to allow those without driver’s licenses, copy machines, transportation and other encumbrances to vote; otherwise, the right to vote means little.
The responsibilities of a public servant are subsumed in the phrase “to serve.” For elected officials, who are the epitome of public servants, the challenge is to provide leadership. In the case of voting, that leadership should guard against attempts to restrict the vote. That is the meaning of serving. We ask that Georgia legislators be the best of public servants, encourage all citizens to vote, and refrain from “fixing” something that does not be to be fixed.
Harold Kirtz is president of the Jewish Community Relations Council.