In last week’s press conference, President Biden labeled Republican efforts to reform state election laws in Georgia and Iowa as “un-American” and “sick.” That charge is malarkey, to use one of the president’s favorite words.
Mr. Biden made three specific claims. First, that Republicans would “end voting at 5 o’clock when working people are just getting off work.” That isn’t true. No state closes its polls at 5 p.m. Iowa’s new law moved up closing time by an hour, but polls are still open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Georgia’s election reforms left the state’s 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. polling hours unchanged.
The president also charged “there will be no absentee ballots.” That’s also false. Iowa’s only absentee voting change was to say ballots must arrive by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Georgia made all of one significant change to absentee voting: replacing the requirement that counties verify the signatures of mail-in voters. Instead, voters will provide the number from their driver’s license or free state-provided ID or a photocopy of the IDs given to government employees, military members or tribal members—making it easier and quicker to verify and process mail-in ballots.
Finally, the president also criticized “some states” for saying “you cannot bring water to people standing in line waiting to vote.” Here’s the fuller picture: Georgia clarified its law prohibiting electioneering within 150 feet of a polling place or 25 feet of anyone waiting in line by saying politically involved groups wooing voters with free food and drinks couldn’t operate that close to the polls and lines. If you’re more than 150 feet from the building and 25 feet from voters waiting in line, knock yourself out. Inside those lines, the law allows only for election officials providing “self-service water from an unattended receptacle to an elector waiting in line to vote.”
Mr. Biden closed his remarks on the subject by calling Iowa and Georgia’s actions “despicable . . . the most pernicious thing” and declaring, “This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle.” This is some weird phrasing: A crow and an eagle are both birds, the eagle more fearsome than the crow. Get it? But Mr. Biden is using unnecessarily incendiary language.
Using the Biden Standard, let’s compare the supposedly un-American and racist practices of Iowa and Georgia with—to pick one state—Delaware. Iowa and Georgia both allow unlimited, no-excuse absentee voting by mail. Any registered voter can vote by mail rather than waiting for Election Day. Neither state’s new reforms restrict the practice.
Unlike Iowa and Georgia, Delaware forbids no-excuse mail-in absentee voting. Only voters who meet a specific criteria can vote by mail, such as government employees; students; those with work or religious prohibitions, an illness or a disability; or those vacationing or living outside the U.S. Some have critiqued Georgia for capping the number of additional dropboxes for absentee ballots beyond the one required for each county at one per 100,000 active voters (of which the state has nearly 7.4 million) or one for every early voting site, whichever is fewer. But Delaware has about half as many dropbox locations per capita—only four across the entire state.
Moreover, both Iowa (since 1990) and Georgia (since 2004) have long had no-excuse in-person early voting. It’s available in Iowa during an election’s last 29 days. This year’s Georgia reforms require 17 mandatory days and two optional Sundays of early voting, up four days from last fall.
By contrast, Delaware has never allowed no-excuse early voting. To date, only voters eligible to cast mail-in absentee votes were allowed to vote early in-person. That is set to change in 2022, but even then Delaware will allow no-excuse, in-person early voting for only 10 days.