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Primaries are exposing the lie of ‘voter suppression’

If states that passed new voting laws were intending to suppress voter turnout, as many Democrats and much of the media have alleged, those efforts have failed, miserably. Many have seen record midterm primary voter turnout. Meanwhile, some of the deep blue states with progressive politicians who made the voter-suppression allegations have experienced abysmal voter turnout.

Remember the allegations? Here’s President Biden speaking at Georgia’s Atlanta University on Jan. 22.

“To them [Republican legislators in Georgia], too many people voting in a democracy is a problem. So, they’re putting up obstacles. … Jim Crow 2.0 is about two insidious things: voter suppression and election subversion. It’s no longer about who gets to vote; it’s about making it harder to vote. It’s about who gets to count the vote and whether your vote counts at all.”

Biden’s sentiments were echoed by Democrats and many in the mainstream media across the country for months.

And his condemnations didn’t stop there. “It’s not just here in Georgia,” Biden said. “Last year [2021] alone, 19 states not proposed but enacted 34 laws attacking voting rights.”

Now that several state midterm-election primaries are over, it’s a good time to see if Biden’s Jim Crow 2.0 warnings have panned out.

The Brennan Center for Justice, a progressive organization that echoes the left’s voter suppression accusations, tracked state election-integrity and other voting bills, including in the 19 states Biden mentions. The Center concludes, “Between Janu­ary 1 and Septem­ber 27 [2021], at least 19 states enacted 33 laws that make it harder for Amer­ic­ans to vote.”

Of those states, the Brennan Center seems to imply that Georgia, Texas, Iowa and Florida (whose primary isn’t until August) are among the most restrictive. Is that what actually happened?

Georgia’s midterm primary was May 24. Here’s the Washington Post’s coverage of the Peach State’s primary, “Turnout set modern records for a midterm primary. Ballot rejections plummeted.” Hmmm. To paraphrase Shakespeare’s Mark Antony, voter suppression “should be made of sterner stuff.”

The high turnout left the critics claiming it “was an outgrowth of years of painstaking efforts to register and mobilize voters — not a reflection of the Election Integrity Act.” So, if turnout is low, it’s voter suppression; if turnout is high, it’s a result of heroic Democratic efforts.” Got it.

Probably the second most criticized state was Texas, whose primary was March 1. Following the primary, the left-leaning Texas Tribune announced, “Texas has a history of a dismal turnout rate in primary elections. This year’s turnout was higher than the last six midterm primaries.”

Apparently, we’re going to have to look elsewhere for that voter suppression. How about the June 7 primary in Iowa, anther state that passed voter integrity legislation and was tagged by the Brennan Center? The following headline sums it up: “The 2022 primary had the second-highest turnout since 1994, says Iowa Secretary of State.”

So, it appears voter-suppression accusations were baseless — at least so far. But lots of local, state and national factors can affect voter turnout: the choice of candidates, voter intensity and issues such as crime, inflation and the economy. And we’re heading into the midterm elections, which historically have lower turnout rates than presidential-election years.

But if the states where voting laws allegedly suppressed voters are seeing large turnouts, those deep blue states that claim to be doing everything possible to make voting easier should be seeing voter explosions, right?

New York’s midterm election primary isn’t until Aug. 23. But the state had a gubernatorial primary in June, so how did that go? According to the Gotham Gazette, “Voter turnout in New York City and State declined dramatically — by nearly half — from the 2018 Democratic primary for governor to the one that closed on Tuesday.”

It turns out deep blue Illinois also saw low voter turnout on its June 28 primary. As WTTW, Chicago’s PBS affiliate, explains it: “Depending on who you ask, the unusual timing of the elections, issues with voters’ access to the polls, and election judges resigning right before polls opened all contributed to the low turnout among Chicago and suburban Cook County’s registered voters on June 28.”

Wait, “voter access,” “unusual timing,” “election judge issues” — those sound like the left’s criticisms of Republican-led states. So, Georgia’s election goes smoothly, with record midterm primary turnout, while Illinois and Chicago had, well, election-integrity issues.

Ok, voter turnout in New York and Illinois really sucked. But surely far-left California had a good showing on its June 7 primary. Or maybe not.

According to one account, “Midterm primary elections are notorious for low voter turnout, and California’s primary on Tuesday yielded some of the lowest turnout numbers of eligible voters in the state’s history …” Ouch!

And for a bonus, here’s Washington, D.C.,-based WTOP’s story on voter turnout in Virginia and Washington, D.C., “Though D.C. did have substantially more in-person voting than expected, turnout for these [primary] races was low to lackluster throughout the region.”

Democrats and much of the media attacked states that passed election-integrity laws, making outrageous accusations. And yet it looks like voter turnout underperformed in the blue states making the accusations.

Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MerrillMatthews.

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