Sending Out An S.O.S.
When you think of what a Secretary of State does, your mind recalls the he or she is the nation’s top diplomat. Writ large in the United States, that’s their purview. But we are now learning that when brought to a state level, the Secretary’s functions change.
What am I talking about? The ability of said Secretary of State to maintain the electoral process. How did we learn this? We can thank Donald Trump for the instructive lesson when he tried to bully Georgia’s Brad Raffensperger into “finding” nearly 12,000 votes so he could win Georgia’s electoral votes in 2020. Raffensperger looked at recount after recount, followed the laws, and determined that Georgia had a secure and fair election. It’s pretty impressive if you look back at that phonecall; he resisted the demands of the President of The United States for over an hour. I give Raffensperger, a Republican, major props for standing by his decision that the Georgia election had been decided.
The Blue Wave rattled the shit out of the Republican Party; suddenly, they controlled nothing. And they looked at the future and realized it was going to become even more grim if they didn’t do something. They know, and everyone should know, that they are grossly outnumbered in terms of registered voters and the trend is going to continue that way. What they did in response is going to make the 2022 midterms an election equalling 2016 in terms of its importance to the survival of democracy in the United States.
Democrats rule the roost when it comes to control of the federal system right now, but Republican power still lies in their ability to dominate the state legislatures and outnumber the Democrats in governorships. And they have put the pedal to the metal drafting and passing bills that make it harder to vote. The most emblematic example of a current successful voter suppression effort is Georgia’s SB 202, which among other things made the absentee process nearly impossible to navigate, curtailed the availability of ballot drop boxes, reduced early voting (all of which will cause enormous lines resulting in voter discouragement) and most importantly, wrested control of the state election board from the Secretary of State and placed its chairmanship in the hands of the legislature.
Why is that important? Run 2020 again. A partisan official gets the call from Trump. Everything grinds to a halt as the vote is analyzed by the Republican controlled election board. You could be looking at decertifying in counties that lean Democratic over tiny irregularities. Disqualifying votes by mail. All the way up to sending their own slate of electors to the Capitol. Whatever dirty tricks you can imagine.
In fact, that is exactly what Jody Hice, leading Georgia Republican candidate for Secretary of State in 2022, would have considered doing. And even if Raffensperger is allowed to continue as SoS, his power to control the election apparatus in that state will be curtailed, if not rendered ineffectual. The Republican dominated legislature will fire anyone on the election board who bucks its will.
So now we see just how important the Secretary of State race is. Currently, the Justice Department is suing Georgia over the law, so if we’re lucky, we could get this ugly thing dealt with in court before we have the midterms.
We Democrats must have vigorous oversight of elections in 2024. Bold and just Secretaries of State are the difference between winning and losing the whole ballgame. Not to be grandiose, but democracy itself lies in the hands of this position.
However, our typical big money donors simply don’t see the danger.
During the last six months of 2021, just one person, Democratic financier George Soros, gave more than $25,000 to the main association involved in electing the party’s candidates for secretaries of state, according to a review of the group’s filings. Four other individuals gave $25,000 precisely.
The absence of more big checks is notable considering that the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, a 527 organization, has no limit on the size of the donations it can receive.
“I was operating under the assumption that people were recognizing this problem and we’re going to be flooding them with cash,” said Doug Edwards, one of those four individuals who gave $25,000. “That’s clearly not the case. … I’m going to start worrying about DASS again.”
So. To the money people, democracy just isn’t sexy enough for them to open their wallets. What’s the issue then? In a nutshell, Secretaries of State just don’t buy them the access they expect when donating generously to lawmakers and executives.
Grass roots are going to have to step up and fill the gap, educating themselves about the importance of the Secretary position, among others. Because the Republicans are wasting no time filling every position they can find at local levels that would affect an election. In Georgia, Hice is a well funded Trumper. If SB202 survives, we’re not going to have a fair shot at SoS. Honestly, Georgia Democrats don’t have a shot at anything in November. Abrams needs 60,000 new successfully cast votes, and Warnock cannot lose 10,000. Polling shows them both losing as of this post. Having Hice at the helm of the Secretary’s office means any future election is in jeopardy if he doesn’t like the results.
I happen to be a Georgia Democrat. So to my fellow Georgians, get to know your SoS candidates and donate and volunteer if you can. I’m a Georgian, and it’s Bee for me. She appears to be the best funded, and having met her and listened to her, I know she understands the stakes. Just get involved, somehow-because while we have the numbers, we are still the underdogs in a system designed to lock the majority out.