NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, May 30th, 2021

Read the legislation that Republicans have been passing to stop people from voting

Ear­ly this year, the Repub­li­can Par­ty lost con­trol of the White House and the Unit­ed States Sen­ate to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty after Joe Biden, Kamala Har­ris, the Rev­erend Raphael Warnock, and Jon Ossoff were sworn into office.

Since then, Repub­li­can state leg­is­la­tors in sev­er­al states, espe­cial­ly across the Sun Belt, have been work­ing furi­ous­ly on schemes aimed at stop­ping peo­ple from vot­ing in future elec­tions. And not just any peo­ple, but peo­ple who would most like­ly sup­port Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates and pro­gres­sive causes.

Four states so far have adopt­ed or are poised to adopt sweep­ing anti-vot­er and anti-par­tic­i­pa­tion bills: Geor­gia, Flori­da, Iowa, and Texas. These schemes have right­ful­ly been sub­ject­ed to crit­i­cism and scruti­ny in the mass media, with analy­sis of harms and deep dives into the agen­das of the Repub­li­cans devis­ing the harms.

But while cov­er­age of these bills isn’t too far to find — a quick news search will yield plen­ty of arti­cles — the actu­al bills them­selves are hard­er to find.

That’s why I’ve writ­ten this post. As a research-dri­ven orga­ni­za­tion, we are believ­ers in the use­ful­ness of pri­ma­ry sources. Even a pri­ma­ry source that con­tains pro­pa­gan­da and improp­er state­ments of leg­isla­tive intent can be useful.

So, here are the texts of each one of these anti-vot­ing bills. Note that many of the most oner­ous pro­vi­sions are buried deep with­in. You’ll need to read care­ful­ly to find them. You may want to scroll to the end of each bill and read backwards.

We’ll start with Iowa, the Hawk­eye State, which was first out of the gate.

Iowa: Senate File 413

Gov­er­nor Kim Reynolds signed SF 413 back in March. Among oth­er things, this bill reduces the hours of polling places and requires that bal­lots returned by mail be received before polls close, which is designed to increase dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion rates.

“This is the first major sup­pres­sion law since the 2020 elec­tion. Expect lit­i­ga­tion here and else­where [as] GOP leg­is­la­tures fol­low this path,” Demo­c­ra­t­ic lawyer Marc Elias tweet­ed on March 8th. (Elias sub­se­quent­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in the fil­ing of a law­suit against this leg­is­la­tion; the orig­i­nal com­plaint is avail­able here.)

Full text of Iowa Sen­ate File 413

Georgia: Senate Bill 202

Next up is the Peach Tree State. Due to the state’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic flip last year, SB 202 has prob­a­bly received the most atten­tion of any of the bills dis­cussed in this post. SB 202 was adopt­ed back in April by Geor­gia Repub­li­cans and Gov­er­nor Bri­an Kemp. Here’s a two minute run­down from Stacey Abrams on what’s in it. You can watch Stacey’s com­ments either before or after you read the bill.

Two law­suits are pend­ing against the State of Geor­gia that con­tend SB 202 is uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. One was filed by a coali­tion that includes the SCLC, Geor­gia Adapt, Geor­gia Mus­lim Vot­er Project, and Lati­no Com­mu­ni­ty Fund Geor­gia. You can read the amend­ed com­plaint from that coali­tion here.

Full text of Geor­gia SB 202 

Florida: Senate Bill 90

We move now to the Sun­shine State. Gov­er­nor Ron DeSan­tis was so proud of his state’s adop­tion of leg­is­la­tion to dis­en­fran­chise vot­ers and so intent on pleas­ing Don­ald Trump that he arranged for the Fox Noise Chan­nel to have exclu­sive access to the bill sign­ing venue and asso­ci­at­ed “media avail­abil­i­ty”.

Elias and the Democ­ra­cy Dock­et team filed a law­suit against the State of Flori­da min­utes after DeSan­tis signed SB 90. The ini­tial com­plaint can be read here.

Full text of Flori­da Sen­ate Bill 90

Texas: Senate Bill 7

Unlike the oth­er states, Texas’ assault on vot­ing is not yet final because Gov­er­nor Greg Abbott has not signed it. How­ev­er, there is no ques­tion that Abbott will sign it — he has repeat­ed­ly stat­ed how eager he is to put his sig­na­ture on it.

The text below is the con­fer­ence com­mit­tee’s report, from yesterday.

At over two hun­dred pages, it’s a rather lengthy piece of leg­is­la­tion. The Texas Tri­bune describes it as “an expan­sive bill that would touch near­ly the entire vot­ing process, includ­ing pro­vi­sions to lim­it ear­ly vot­ing hours, cur­tail local vot­ing options and fur­ther tight­en vot­ing-by-mail, among sev­er­al oth­er provisions.”

“It was nego­ti­at­ed behind closed doors over the last week after the House and Sen­ate passed sig­nif­i­cant­ly dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the leg­is­la­tion and pulled from each chamber’s ver­sion of the bill,” the Tri­bune report­ed. “The bill also came back with a series of addi­tion­al vot­ing rule changes, includ­ing a new ID require­ment for mail-in bal­lots, that weren’t part of pre­vi­ous debates on the bill.”

Full text of Texas Sen­ate Bill 7

Here in the Pacif­ic North­west, which has two Demo­c­ra­t­ic tri­fec­tas (locat­ed in Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon, respec­tive­ly), we have most­ly been work­ing to get rid of bar­ri­ers to vot­ing instead of putting up new ones.

Attempts to take us back­ward have gone absolute­ly nowhere.

For exam­ple, Doug Erick­sen (R‑WA-42nd Dis­trict: What­com Coun­ty) intro­duced a bill to get rid of vote at home, but it died a moment after it went into the hop­per. It nev­er received a hear­ing and non­par­ti­san staff spent no time ana­lyz­ing it.

Ida­ho is sad­ly a dif­fer­ent story.

Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors made assault­ing the right to vote and peti­tion a cen­tral focus of the 2021 ses­sion, as this arti­cle from the Ida­ho States­man dis­cuss­es.

A lot of effort went into mak­ing it much more dif­fi­cult to qual­i­fy a statewide ini­tia­tive to the Gem State bal­lot with Sen­ate Bill 1110, because ini­tia­tives can be used to put ideas direct­ly in front of the peo­ple for adop­tion and there­by bypass Ida­ho’s Repub­li­can-con­trolled Legislature.

Repub­li­can Gov­er­nor Brad Lit­tle signed SB 1110 into law on April 19th.

The adop­tion of SB 1110 did not draw any com­ment or protest from neigh­bor­ing Wash­ing­ton-based Repub­li­cans such as failed guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­date Tim Eyman, who claim to be staunch defend­ers of direct democracy.

Nor have attempts to pass sim­i­lar bills in more than a dozen oth­er states — a nation­wide effort being tracked by our friends at the Bal­lot Ini­tia­tive Strat­e­gy Cen­ter which recent­ly drew the atten­tion of The New York Times.

From Repub­li­cans’ point of view, the ini­tia­tive, ref­er­en­dum, and recall are appar­ent­ly only worth hav­ing in states with Demo­c­ra­t­ic tri­fec­tas or Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nors. Oth­er­wise, they’re more trou­ble than they’re worth.

The pres­ence of Orwellian lan­guage in the afore­men­tioned Texas, Iowa, Geor­gia, and Flori­da bills (e.g. the use of the name Elec­tion Integri­ty Pro­tec­tion Act) sug­gests that Repub­li­cans are wor­ried about their schemes hold­ing up in court, even if they’re con­fi­dent that they will ulti­mate­ly not be held account­able for pre­vent­ing most­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers from vot­ing in the court of pub­lic opinion.

The law­suit filed by the League of Women Vot­ers against Flori­da’s SB 90 observes in one of its open­ing pas­sages that Repub­li­cans real­ly did­n’t both­er to devel­op a pol­i­cy ratio­nale for the bill. That’s because there isn’t one. SB 90, sim­ply put, is designed to please Don­ald Trump and the cult that wor­ships him.

Togeth­er, these fore­go­ing pro­vi­sions (“Chal­lenged Pro­vi­sions”) tar­get almost every aspect of the vot­ing process, and they do so with­out a legit­i­mate pur­pose, much less a com­pelling state inter­est that can jus­ti­fy their restric­tions on the franchise.

State Sen­a­tor Per­ry Thurston was cor­rect when he described the bill as just one more chap­ter in Florida’s “sor­did his­to­ry” of “try­ing to make it hard­er for peo­ple to vote.”

As Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Omari Hardy apt­ly observed, the bill is “about mak­ing sure that bal­lots cast by eli­gi­ble vot­ers don’t count because they didn’t jump through the myr­i­ad hoops that this bill cre­ates,” and amounts to noth­ing more than “leg­isla­tive engi­neer­ing of the elec­torate to shave off in par­tic­u­lar peo­ple of color.”

The pro­po­nents of the bill had no mean­ing­ful rebuttal. 

The leg­is­la­tor who led the efforts to pass SB 90 in the Flori­da Sen­ate, Sen­a­tor Den­nis Bax­ley, effec­tive­ly acknowl­edged as much, offer­ing instead this glib ratio­nale for the bill: “Some peo­ple say ‘why?’ and I say ‘why not?’ Let’s try it. We can always do it dif­fer­ent­ly next week or next month or next year, but why not try this?”

The answer is because it will deprive law­ful Florid­i­ans of their most fun­da­men­tal rights, under­min­ing the integri­ty of the state’s elec­tions, and once bal­lots are cast, there will be no mean­ing­ful redress for injured vot­ers. The states may be “lab­o­ra­to­ries of democ­ra­cy,” but those “exper­i­ments” must stay with­in the con­fines of the fed­er­al con­sti­tu­tion. This one does not. 

It should be declared invalid and enjoined.

The Unit­ed States bad­ly needs new fed­er­al leg­is­la­tion that would address these state-based attacks on vot­ing. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, H.R. 1 (the For the Peo­ple Act) is present­ly stuck in the Sen­ate because sen­a­tors like Dianne Fein­stein, Joe Manchin, and Kyrsten Sine­ma would rather keep the fil­i­buster than keep our Repub­lic. Unless they can be per­suad­ed to change their minds, the only avail­able means of over­turn­ing these attacks on vot­ing will be judi­cial or bal­lot based.

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