On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that four of the five members of the U.S. Department of Justice’s team of professional, career staff recommended that the U.S. Attorney General use his authority under the Voting Rights Act to block the implementation of Georgia’s new voter identification law. The career professionals who reviewed the Georgia statute were overruled by a Bush Administration political appointee. On Friday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on information found in the review team’s memorandum that reflected disturbing assertions made to the Justice Department by Republican Rep. Sue Burmeister, the bill’s primary sponsor. Needless to say, Rep. Burmeister’s statements showed an amazing level of ignorance, and were an embarrassment for her, the Republican Party, the General Assembly and the State of Georgia.
The passage of this bill, the obvious politicization of the Bush Justice Department’s Voting Rights section, and the statements by Rep. Burmeister are all sad, and are all a part of a bigger problem with Republican leadership. Governor Perdue and Republican legislative leaders have brought cynical dishonesty to the Gold Dome, and they rely on half truths or outright lies to push an agenda that hurts Georgia’s working families. The latest example of this dishonest leadership style is the bizarre joint statement issued on Friday by Rep. Burmeister and House Speaker Glenn Richardson. The two spent several paragraphs asserting that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was lying in its Friday article, even though Rep. Burmeister a day earlier had confirmed to the newspaper the accuracy of her statements as reflected in the Justice Department memorandum.
The memorandum contains several other clear examples of the basic dishonesty of the Republicans who pushed the bill. It is worth noting here that the memorandum states on Page 6 that Republican Sen. Cecil Staton, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, made arguments to the Justice Department similar to Rep. Burmeister’s. Apparently Rep. Burmeister told the Justice Department team that Governor Perdue had passed a bill that mandates a location providing photo identification in every county, and that individuals can obtain the required identification in Kroger stores. As the Justice Department team notes in the memorandum, both assertions are false. The memorandum also outlines the dubious nature of the data provided by the Perdue Administration about the number of Georgians with photo identification, and implies that the Justice Department team may have been deliberately misled.
The Republicans to this day have not produced a single example of voter fraud anywhere in Georgia that their restrictive identification requirements would have prevented. Now we see that they have resorted to dishonest and ignorant statements to justify the bill to the Justice Department.
The behavior of the Republican leadership on this bill is part of a troubling pattern. Governor Perdue is the only Governor in state history to be found guilty of violating the state’s ethics law, which happened after he got caught lying about his attempt to amend state ethics law to get himself off the hook. He’s been dishonest multiple times with Georgians and the Legislature about the budget, including the need for a wasteful special legislative session, his use of budget gimmicks that threaten the state’s bond rating, and his false alarm about the need to slash the HOPE Scholarship. He has been trying to cover up his gutting of state support for our children’s schools with claims that he is forced to do so, while he still finds money for pork barrel projects and special interest tax breaks. When pushing a repeal of Georgia’s law protecting consumers from predatory lenders, the Governor and Senate leaders falsely claimed to have a letter from Freddie Mac saying that it would stop backing loans in Georgia if consumer protections were not rolled back. The list goes on and on.
The pattern of obvious dishonesty and the attempts to play the people of Georgia for fools would almost be humorous if it didn’t involve real harm to so many people in our state. Come a year from now, when the voters of Georgia get their say, my guess is that the game will be up for Governor Perdue and the Republican legislative leadership.