Georgians are preparing to go to the polls en masse on Tuesday for the first time since the 2020 general election and subsequent runoff, and already you can feel the adjustment knobs on the microscope being turned.
To say the results of Tuesday’s balloting will be under intense scrutiny for reasons other than the ultimate winners and losers is like saying the weather is hot in August. It isn’t a deduction that requires a Sherlock.
There are bigger issues at stake in Tuesday’s election than the candidates ultimately nominated by the Republican and Democrat parties to be included on November’s ballot. The fate of the state’s entire election system may well be at issue.
For two years, election officials in Georgia have been bombarded by baseless claims that the result of the 2020 election was somehow invalid. No one has yet managed to provide any sort of reasonable evidence of fraud or misconduct or ineptness at a level that would have changed any election results, but many are nonetheless convinced that such is the case. This is true primarily because former President Donald Trump has fanned the flames of suspicion with a level of disinformation and baseless accusations the likes of which we have never seen before.
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If Tuesday’s balloting comes under similar attack, for whatever reason, you have to wonder if there is any hope of conducting any future election in the state that the people will accept as valid. And without faith in elections, democracies cannot exist.
As though overcoming the challenges raised by the false prophet of election mistrust isn’t enough, the primaries also will be the first voting conducted under new rules included in election reforms passed last year by a Republican-controlled legislature, which in turn were based on distrust stemming from intentionally inaccurate information.
The election reform has made it harder for absentee ballots to be cast, a major point of contention in the 2020 voting process. The timeframe for casting absentee ballots has been shortened as well, and the number of “drop boxes” around the state dramatically reduced. Amazing the number of people who think a drop box under direct control of a local election office is somehow less secure than is a piece of mail handled dozens of times at different locations before ever finding its way to the counting room.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the political aisle, are the numerous complaints by voting rights organizations, typically aligned with the Democratic Party, which allege that reforms and changes in the process unfairly target minority voters, and the process needs to make it easier for more people to vote and with fewer roadblocks, such as providing an ID to prove they are a bona fide voter.
Litigation on that issue continues even as we prepare to vote again.
Does anyone really believe that by this time next week there aren’t going to be challenges to the outcome of one or more races on Tuesday’s ballot, or that some local election office isn’t going to be under fire for the way it conducted the primary election?
So, what can you as a potential voter do to reduce the likelihood of Election Day problems?
Be prepared. Make sure you are at the right precinct, as your voting place may have changed since last time.
Know the candidates on the ballot. Know which districts you are supposed to vote in, since election districts have been redrawn this year.
Know how the voting machines work. Follow the rules about not campaigning at the polling places or wearing clothing in support of candidates. Don’t create unnecessary friction in the voting process that might give someone reason to challenge the outcomes once the votes are cast.
Georgians on Tuesday will decide who moves forward as nominees for the general election, or at least advances to potential runoffs. Thousands of votes already have been cast in the early election period, but Tuesday’s primary is the first true trip to the polls since the COVID pandemic has eased slightly, and crowds are expected, as was once the norm on Election Day.
At this point, we’re less concerned with winners and losers than with seeing a smooth election that doesn’t provide fodder for litigation and unsupported claims of malfeasance, in the hope that the whirlwind of controversy that has swirled around voting in the state for two years now can begin to die down.
Lacking a smooth election next week, it’s hard to imagine what might transpire before November’s ballots are cast.