The new Jim Crow: Georgia early voting three times higher under new election law than in 2018

AP Photo/John Bazemore

I’m not a historian but “Jim Crow” isn’t supposed to lead to *more* voting, is it?

This data from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution feels like the coup de grace in Brian Kemp’s shockingly successful primary campaign against David Perdue. Not because Perdue was a critic of Georgia’s new voting law (he isn’t) but because it’s a delicious “own the libs” moment for Kemp, destined to please MAGA voters who might otherwise be wary of him. He fought Democrats over Georgia’s new voting law last year; he refused to bend when they demagogued it and when Major League Baseball pulled the All-Star Game out of Atlanta; and now he’s being vindicated by the fact that turnout is way up relative to the state’s last midterm election.

Being perceived as “weak” on elections is Kemp’s only liability in the primary thanks to Trump’s conspiracy theorizing. These numbers may remind undecideds that it isn’t true.

The surge in turnout has much less to do with the law itself (although it does allow for 17 days of early voting) than with the fascinating Republican gubernatorial primary playing out between Kemp and Trump in the person of his proxy, Perdue. But the law obviously isn’t the draconian roadblock to voting that its shrillest critics insisted it would be if early voting already looks like this.

Brad Raffensperger, who became the law’s most outspoken defender in his role as secretary of state, is also taking a victory lap this week:

“The national media, by and large, showed their bias, and it was all leaning on the left side of the aisle,” he said. “If someone said something, they never fact-checked it, said what is the actual truth about this? It’s real easy. Just read the bill. It’s less than 100 pages. You could have read that bill. It’s not like D.C. where you write 1,000-page bills… Ours is less than 100. You’re going to see right there, point blank, 17 days of early voting.”

“We have accessibility, but we have security,” he added. “We’ve had photo I.D. for in-person voting. We now have photo ID for absentee voting. That shores up security, shores up confidence. And that’s a good thing.”

Will Raffensperger end up getting an “own the libs” bounce too in his polling now notwithstanding his status as a MAGA enemy for defending the 2020 election results in Georgia? He’s neck-and-neck with MAGA challenger Jody Hice in the GOP primary but some 40 percent of voters remain undecided. If I were Raffensperger, I’d be giving interviews this week to every media outlet who’ll have me in order to rub the left’s faces in their hysteria over Georgia’s election law. That’s bound to soften up a little of the Trumpist opposition to him.

As for Kemp, he’s been above 50 percent against Perdue in every poll taken over the last month and has never led by less than 16 points. Perdue has touched 40 percent in a poll only once and that was back in February. All signs point to the incumbent winning the nomination outright 13 days from now with no need of a runoff, a shocking outcome given how heavily invested Trump has been in knocking Kemp off. The only upset that could conceivably be more embarrassing for Trump this summer would be Liz Cheney finding a way to eke through in Wyoming.

That’s not in the cards, I suspect. But Kemp’s victory seems so assured that a number of Trump frenemies have begun jumping into the race on his side to help him spike the football in Trump’s face. George W. Bush will appear at a fundraiser for Kemp on Monday, and three governors or ex-governors with whom Trump has crossed paths will be on the trail with Kemp in Georgia next week to rally voters.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is headed to Georgia this weekend for a spate of campaign stops with Gov. Brian Kemp. Two other well-known state executives are right behind him.

Ducey will join Kemp at five stops around metro Atlanta on Saturday. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are also expected to rally for Kemp in the final weeks before the May 24 primary.

Ducey, Ricketts, and Christie have two things in common. One is that they all work for the Republican Governors Association, which makes them somewhat obliged to appear in support of an incumbent. But I doubt they had to be persuaded to do so in this case: The other thing they have in common is that they’re each on the outs with Trump for different reasons. Christie has criticized Trump repeatedly for the “stop the steal” hysteria; Ricketts asked Trump to stay out of Nebraska’s gubernatorial primary, a request Trump ignored (his candidate lost last night); and Ducey, of course, refused to overturn the results of Arizona’s election in 2020 as governor, drawing almost as much vitriol from Trump since then as Kemp has.

With Kemp’s primary win shaping up to be one of the biggest embarrassments Trump has suffered within the party in years, go figure that each of those guys would want to stick it to him by joining in Kemp’s end-zone dance. And it speaks volumes that Kemp is willing to bring them aboard. I doubt he gains much from having Ducey et al. on the trail for him but he knows that inviting them will be a thumb in the eye for Trump in the home stretch of the race.

Exit question: Would this primary against Kemp have gone better if Trump had recruited Doug Collins to challenge Kemp instead? Collins is more of a populist and a pugilist than Perdue is. Perdue can read from the script about how the election was stolen or whatever but literally no one believes that he means it. Go figure that he couldn’t get traction.