Read: The Abrams machine is not done yet.
In assessing these claims, it is not enough to note that the rhetoric on both sides is similar. What matters is whether there is a factual basis for the claims themselves—not which side is making them. And on this, the record is clear.
The pressures on mainstream-media outlets to draw an equivalence between Republican fantasies of voter fraud and Democratic claims of voter suppression are intense. Conservative pundits have argued that Abrams’s refusal to concede undermines democracy as much as the president’s rants about voter fraud. But there is no equivalence: one is an attack on the legitimacy of the democratic process, the other is an attack on efforts to undermine the democratic process.
It is true that Democrats believe an expanded electorate will work to their political advantage. But not only is that not necessarily the case, that possibility doesn’t legitimize deliberate Republican efforts to deprive Democratic constituencies of their constitutional right to vote. Once upon a time, it was the Republican Party that stood for universal suffrage, and the Democratic Party that sought to disenfranchise minority voters because of partisan affiliation. But that was a different Republican Party than the one that exists today.
Democracy depends on the consent of the governed. Elections in which one side attempts to rig the rules to its advantage, or seeks to prevent the governed from exercising their right to the franchise, deserve to bear the stigma of illegitimacy. In fact, to fail to question the legitimacy of such elections is to make election rigging perfectly acceptable, merely another instrument in the partisan toolbox.
Read: The Democrats’ Deep South strategy was a winner after all.
Take Georgia. Kemp refused to step aside as secretary of state until after Election Day, and so presided over his own election as governor. In the name of combatting vanishingly rare voter fraud, he oversaw multiple prosecutions of minority organizers and poll workers for assisting others in casting ballots. As Carol Anderson wrote for this website last week, as secretary of state, Kemp purged more than a tenth of the electorate from the polls, fully 1.5 million voters—some legitimately, because voters had died or moved out of state, and some for dubious reasons, such as skipping an election. Days before the registration deadline, the AP reported that Kemp put more than 53,000 voter registrations, mostly from black voters, on hold.* That number is close to Kemp’s margin of victory, and beyond the threshold necessary for Abrams to have secured a runoff under Georgia law. Kemp used his authority as secretary of state to accuse the state Democratic Party of attempting to “hack” the state’s voter-registration system days before the election, without substantiating evidence. The secretary of state’s office issued a press release using partisan language indistinguishable from that of Kemp’s campaign. Instead of using his office to work with county officials on improving their processes and procedures, Kemp stood by as they shut down hundreds of polling places in mostly minority areas. On Election Day, polling places in majority-black areas faced immense lines due to the lack of working voting machines. At best, Kemp’s incompetence as secretary of state worked to his advantage; at worst, he deliberately abused his authority to improve his chances. Either should be unacceptable, regardless of his party affiliation.