Saunders: ‘Voting rights’ bills seek unwarranted regulation

State laws that the federal legislation seeks to change aren’t the barriers to voting Democrats claim.

By Debra J. Saunders / syndicated columnist

President Biden went to Atlanta Tuesday to push for passage of what Democrats hail as “voting rights” legislation.

The speech prompted pundits to question the wisdom of a president who promised to bring the country together comparing opponents of the Democrats’ Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act to Jefferson Davis, George Wallace and Bull Connor.

Biden argued that the Freedom to Vote Act is necessary because Georgia Republicans passed SB 202, an election bill that represents “Jim Crow 2.0,” and other states introduced laws to promote “voter suppression and election subversion.”

Among changes in the Georgia bill are provisions that would limit drop boxes to one per 100,000 voters and require voter ID for absentee ballots.

“Rules that were implemented in Georgia to accommodate voters in the height of covid, understandably need to be changed when covid wanes,” GOP strategist Alice Stewart told me.

Biden also invoked the most outrage-provoking provision of the Georgia law, which he said “makes it illegal to bring your neighbors, your fellow voters, food or water while they wait in line to vote.”

After the bill passed, The Washington Post ran a story about a food truck that feeds voters as they stand in line. The headline: “New limits on food and water at Georgia’s polls could hinder Black and low-income voters, advocates say.”

What advocates should be saying is that well-run Georgia counties don’t make voters stand in lines for hours and something must be done. Want to boost voter turnout? Insist on more workers, not water.

And another thing: To safeguard voters during covid-19, Georgia expanded vote by mail, early voting and drop boxes. With two other options, voters didn’t need to stand in line for hours.

And if they chose to stand in line, SB 202 allows for self-serve water stations.

“Line warming” — the practice of trying to “inappropriately influence voters in the crucial final moments before they cast their ballots” — already was illegal, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger noted last year.

Raffensperger, by the way, is the Republican election official who rejected former President Donald Trump’s telephone entreaty to “find 11,780 votes” to flip the Peach State in Trump’s favor.

Biden praised the GOP election official, even as he likened the state election law he supported to the Confederacy and segregationists.

CNN’s Jake Tapper asked the question that begs to be asked Tuesday: Noting that New Jersey bans ballot harvesting and Delaware limits early voting, Tapper asked why “Democrats only complain about the strict voting regulations in red states, in Texas and Georgia,” and not in Democratic states.

That is not a trick question.

The Democrats’ Freedom to Vote Act is designed to tilt elections to the left. It would require all states to offer same-day registration, automatic “motor voter” registration, online registration and drop boxes.

The Freedom to Vote Act also undercuts voter ID requirements in states that require official photo IDs. “States that do not have a voter identification requirement would not be required to make any changes,” according to a fact sheet put out by co-sponsor Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

And it would make Election Day a public holiday.

For an apparent power grab, Biden has turned up the pressure on moderate Democrats to change Senate rules — dump the filibuster — to get these measures passed.

He’s pushing ahead even as voting-rights advocates skipped his speech. They pushed Biden to the precipice, and now they want distance.

So, here’s the other question that begs to be asked: Are there 50 lemmings in the Senate?

Debra J. Saunders is a fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership. Email her at

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