Georgians broke voter turnout records this year in the primary and general elections, but Democrats have no intention of abandoning the “Jim Crow 2.0” narrative.
The state set records in midterm elections for early voting, absentee voting and total turnout. More Georgia votes were cast in the Senate runoff than in the general election, in the January 2021 Senate runoff or on Election Day 2020.
The state also set three single-day records for early voting.
Even the victory of Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock over Republican Herschel Walker in the runoff did not stop Democratic Party leaders from blasting Georgia’s Election Integrity Act of 2021 as a voter suppression tool.
The narrative prompted eye-rolls from conservatives.
“I take it to mean there is no set of facts that will ever, ever be able to dissuade progressive politicians like President Biden, like Rafael Warnock, like Stacey Abrams from their voter suppression argument,” said Jason Snead, executive director of the Honest Elections Project. “It’s a narrative that has absolutely no support in the facts.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, insisted that Mr. Warnock won in spite of the state’s election law, which tightened pandemic-era voting procedures while expanding early voting.
“What happened in Georgia, despite the efforts of the Republican legislature to make it harder to vote, our people voted. People voted. Georgians voted,” Mr. Schumer said at a post-election press conference. “They said, ‘We’re not going to let these barriers stand in our way even if we have to wait in line in the rain.’”
Mr. Warnock, who previously called the election law “Jim Crow in new clothes,” warned that some people “would look at the outcome of this race and say that there is no voter suppression in Georgia.”
“Let me be clear: Just because people endured long lines that wrapped around buildings, some blocks long, just because they endured the rain and the cold and all kinds of tricks in order to vote doesn’t mean that voter suppression does not exist,” Mr. Warnock said after his win. “It simply means that you the people have decided that your voices will not be silenced.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a headline on the day of the runoff saying: “US Senate’s finale race brings steady turnout and few lines in Georgia.”
“There were long lines during Georgia’s condensed early voting period, which had record in-person turnout for a midterm runoff, but there were only a few reports of long waits on Tuesday despite a strong turnout that surpassed 1.5 million voters,” the Georgia Recorder reported.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday that there was voter suppression “throughout the Georgia election.” She was sticking to the script of Mr. Biden, who ripped the election law last year as “Jim Crow 2.0.”
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who touted the record-setting turnout, was one of the Republicans pushing back.
“Georgia’s election system has been challenged and scrutinized and criticized and passed every test,” Mr. Raffensperger said. “I’ll put it up against any other State in the Union as measured by voter convenience, accessibility, security and accuracy, and believe Georgia can be a model for the nation for election reform going forward.”
As reports of high turnout amassed, Republicans on the House Administration Committee fired off a letter urging Mr. Biden to retract “your false claims about election integrity” and “apologize to the American public.”
About 3.5 million votes were cast Tuesday. Georgia law required the runoff because neither candidate cleared the 50% threshold in the Nov. 8 general election with more than 3.9 million ballots.
That was a slight increase over the 2018 midterms. In the marquee race for governor, 3,953,408 votes were cast, about 14,500 more than in the governor’s race four years ago.
That contest was a rematch of the 2018 race between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. Mr. Kemp won both elections.
Voter turnout was higher than in the 2020 general election and January 2021 Senate runoff. Election years with presidential contests almost inevitably draw more voter interest than midterms.
Fair Fight, the voting rights group Ms. Abrams founded, congratulated voters for “turning out in force amid myriad restrictive barriers stemming from Georgia Republicans’ anti-voting bill SB 202.”
“In the face of Georgia Republicans’ ongoing voter suppression — from the severely truncated runoff Early Vote window to attempts to block Saturday voting — the historic turnout that led to Senator Warnock’s re-election is further proof of Georgia voters’ determination to elect leaders who reflect their values,” said a statement by Fair Fight Executive Director Cianti Stewart-Reid.
Mr. Snead accused liberals of keeping such claims alive to drive voter turnout and provide a playbook to explain election losses.
“They fearmonger and scare people into voting by saying that rights are about to be taken away when there’s no evidence to back that up,” Mr. Snead said. “And that’s why they will never give up on the voter suppression narrative.”
Georgia’s Election Integrity Act, which originated from Senate Bill 202, imposed identification requirements for mail-in ballots, reduced the number of drop boxes, barred third-party groups from handing out food and water in lines, and added a mandatory Saturday for early voting.
Companies such as Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines blasted the Election Integrity Act after Mr. Kemp signed it in April 2021. Major League Baseball pulled the annual All-Star Game from Atlanta, costing the city with a majority Black population an estimated $100 million in lost business.
Refusing to drop the matter was Honest Elections Project, which ran a full-page ad calling for Coca-Cola to “apologize for lying about Georgia’s election integrity law.” The group also stationed a mobile billboard near the MLB winter meeting in San Diego last week demanding an apology.
Mr. Snead said he would like the MLB to make amends by returning the All-Star Game to Truist Park.
“I think the equitable thing would be to bring the All-Star Game back to Atlanta next year. That would be the ultimate apology,” Mr. Snead said. “But we’ll have to see.”