Wineke: As Georgia goes…?

Voting Access Bill Sparks Controversy In Georgia
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 03: Demonstrators stand outside of the Georgia Capitol building, to oppose the HB 531 bill on March 3, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. HB 531 will add controversial voting restrictions to the state's upcoming elections including restricting ballot drop boxes, requiring an ID requirement for absentee voting and limiting weekend early voting days. The Georgia House passed the bill and will send it to the Senate. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)

MADISON, Wis. — You have to hand it to Georgia Republicans: When they decide to go full fascist they don’t fool around.

In one afternoon, the party managed to pass a 95-page bill undermining the state’s election integrity through the state Assembly and Senate, had it signed by Governor Brian Kemp, and, then, arrested and put in jail a Democrat assemblywoman who had the temerity to knock on the governor’s door.

Rep. Park Cannon was charged with a felony for “obstructing” Kemp’s signing ceremony, which took place behind closed doors.

The new Georgia law does a number of things. It is most publicized for a provision making it illegal to provide food or water to people standing in the long voting lines created by former Kemp actions closing polling places.

But it also gives the state legislature the right to take over voting procedures if it doesn’t like the way localities are using them – which, basically, means the legislature can cancel Black voting in Atlanta if it chooses.

In one day they did all this.

If it were just Georgia, the situation would be appalling enough. But some 250 proposals across the nation – including Wisconsin – are being considered. They each have one purpose: to make voting hard for Democrats.

They won’t all pass. But they did in Georgia.

The irony is that Georgia, more than any other state, had reason to be proud of its elections. The votes in the 2020 presidential election were counted three different times. The entire election apparatus in Georgia was controlled by Republicans because Republicans control the state government.

The problem for Georgia Republicans is that Democrats managed to squeak out victories.

So it’s all pretty outrageous.

But the part of the story that seems most ominous to me is the arrest of Cannon.

She was charged with two felonies. One was for disrupting a session of the legislature. The presumption is that, as Kemp signed the bill, the legislature was in session. Since Cannon is a legislator, one might argue she had a right to be in the room.

But the technicalities aren’t important. What’s important is the assumption that it is acceptable to arrest and jail a political figure who stands up against an autocratic ruler.

That’s what they do in Russia. That’s what they do in Hungary. That’s what they do in every authoritarian state.

If that’s how we’re going to run our country, then we might just as well close down our State Department because we have nothing now of value to offer the world.