The two flavors of Republican candidates in the 2022 primaries
There are two primary flavors of Republican candidates in 2022, and they are competing to be the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Georgia.
The first type of candidate is represented by former Georgia Senator David Perdue (R). During his Senate campaigns, Perdue ran as a no-nonsense businessman. But this year, the centerpiece of Perdue's campaign is embracing Trump's lies about the 2020 presidential election.
On Sunday, Perdue tweeted that the 2020 election was "rigged and stolen." His opponent, incumbent Governor Brian Kemp (R) was "complicit in the fraud."
"Thanks to Brian Kemp our 2020 elections were absolutely stolen," Perdue tweeted a week ago.
These false and baseless claims are also featured in Perdue's television ads. In an ad released April 21, Perdue claims that Kemp "sold us out and allowed radicals to steal the election."
In case there was any doubt about the most important issue in Perdue's campaign, this was Perdue's opening statement during an April 24 primary debate: "First off, folks, let me be very clear tonight, the election in 2020 was rigged and stolen."
Perdue's willingness to embrace Trump's grievances earned him the former president's endorsement. Trump has appeared in Perdue's campaign advertising and at rallies.
Trump's endorsement of Perdue is not a surprise because Trump has a grudge against Kemp, who rejected Trump's request to withhold certification of the 2020 election. Trump also "asked Kemp to call a special session of the state legislature to name a new set of Republican electors to cast the state’s electoral college votes" and was rebuffed.
Kemp, who represents the second flavor of Republican primary candidate, does not explicitly declare that the 2020 election was "stolen." But Kemp does claim, without evidence, that significant fraud occurred in the 2020 election, repeating false claims about the security of drop boxes and absentee ballots. And Kemp brags about his efforts to restrict voting in response.
Here is what Kemp said during the second gubernatorial primary debate on May 1:
I was as frustrated as anyone else with the 2020 election results. And I actually did something about it, working with the Georgia General Assembly to address those issues in Senate Bill 202...We've tied photo ID to absentee ballots by mail. We've secured drop boxes to make sure we don't have these problems in the future.
So Kemp, purportedly the "responsible" candidate in the race, is openly admitting that the voter suppression law he signed last year was the result of his frustration that Republicans did not perform better in Georgia in 2020.
The differences between Perdue and Kemp's positions on the 2020 election are quite subtle. Both allege, without any evidence, that fraud occurred. Both link that alleged fraud to the 2020 presidential election results. And both enthusiastically support eroding voting rights in response.
Perdue is focused on pleasing Trump. Kemp is carefully positioning himself as a viable option for Trump voters. Kemp is leading in recent polls, but we'll find out which approach works better in Georgia on Election Day, May 24.
Regardless of the outcome, both approaches are deeply corrosive to democracy.
The impact of Georgia's new law restricting voting
Georgia's 2021 law restricting the right to vote could alter the composition of Georgia's voting population by making it more difficult for Democratic-leaning groups to cast a ballot.
The new law, for example, requires Georgians who "lack a driver’s license or state ID number linked to their registrations" to provide additional documentation before voting absentee in future elections. In 2020, "about one-quarter of the state’s 5 million turnout" voted by mail.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) conducted an audit of 15,000 absentee ballots submitted for the November 2020 presidential election. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ordered the audit "after pressure from Trump and Republicans in the Georgia General Assembly." It did not find a single instance of fraud. There was no problem with Georgia's existing absentee ballot system. But Georgia is making it harder to vote absentee because Trump claimed absentee ballots were a vehicle for fraud.
According to records obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution "about 3.5% of Georgia’s 7.8 million registered voters are missing a driver’s license or state ID number." That is 272,000 voters. 56% of registered voters who must now provide additional documentation to vote absentee — "a utility bill, bank statement or other form of ID" — are Black. (Only 30% of Georgia's registered voters are Black.) The majority of the voters who must provide additional documentation "live in large, Democratic-leaning counties."
Other issues may not be apparent until Election Day. Some voters were forced to wait for hours in 2020 to cast their ballot. The new law "limits early voting sites and restricts both the number and the available hours of drop boxes," potentially making the situation worse. It will also now be "illegal to take food or water to voters waiting in line." If there are disputes after Election Day, the new law "allows state election officials to take over the administration of county elections."
Georgia quietly ends automatic voter registration for 15 months
Since 2016, Georgians who received a driver's license have been registered to vote by default. Georgians that didn't want to register to vote had the opportunity to opt-out. But, early in 2021, a change was made to the system. Instead of automatic registration, applicants were required to affirmatively click a "YES" button in order to register. That change caused a dramatic decline in new registrations.
In Fulton County, new registrations declined from 35,000 in February 2020 to 6,000 in February 2021. Statewide, new voter registrations from the Georgia Department of Driver Services "dropped 48% to 149,000" in 2021.
Automatic registration was not restored until March 2022 after a former Fulton County election official "contacted the Center for Secure and Modern Elections, a nonprofit organization focused on automatic registration, which then alerted the Department of Driver Services."
The state provided no explanation as to why the change occurred. "The secretary of state’s office refused to answer questions about whether it investigated the decrease in registrations or communicated with the Department of Driver Services about the issue," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The incident occurred as Georgia Republicans argued simple measures to make voting convenient are a threat to election security.