How controversial new voting laws are impacting 2022 elections

Voters in many of Tuesday's primaries are navigating new and sometimes controversial voting laws implemented in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Jessica Huseman, editorial director of Votebeat, the newly launched newsroom following elections and voting, joins William Brangham to help us get a better sense of how these new laws are impacting the elections process.

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  • William Brangham:

    Voters in many of today's primaries are navigating new and sometimes controversial voting laws that were implemented in the aftermath of the 2020 election.

    To get a better sense of how these new laws are affecting the current election cycle, I'm joined by Jessica Huseman. She's the editorial director of Votebeat, the newly launched newsroom dedicated to following elections and the voting process.

    Jessica, great to have you back on the "NewsHour."

    So, as I mentioned, voters over the last few weeks and today have been going to the polls in many cases under these new laws that were passed, some of them very, very controversial and contested laws.

    What have you been watching? What have you been thinking about?

  • Jessica Huseman, Editorial Director, Votebeat:

    I think I have been watching Georgia and Texas most closely. Of course, both of them are voting today. And both of them passed pretty significant voting laws in the wake of the — in the wake of the 2020 election.

    And so it's been interesting to watch how those laws have taken shape over time in the last few months. And today is — has been fascinating to watch as well.

  • William Brangham:

    And, particularly, I know that Georgia passed a lot of laws there. This was an incredibly close election in 2020. President Trump fought that and claimed baselessly that there was immense fraud.

    And Governor Brian Kemp there has championed this law that they passed to say, look, we addressed the issues that people might have had. And Republicans there have been touting the fact that voter turnout, early turnout, has been very, very high, thus, there's no sense of voter suppression, which was the accusation.

    Is that your sense that that is true, that voters have been able to navigate these new laws?

  • Jessica Huseman:

    I think they certainly have been able to navigate them, but that's no thanks to the legislature or to Brian Kemp.

    There's a really fascinating statistic that came out just a couple of days ago. Georgia is actually the most registered state in the country; 95 percent of Georgians who are eligible to vote are now registered, which is a truly amazing statistic.

    And I think that it's because of the fervor that came out of the passage of these laws. Activism groups have been incredibly instrumental in registering folks and turning them out to the polls in Georgia. So, I think high turnout after a law that made voting less easy still doesn't make voting easier.

    So, I don't know that it's appropriate for them to take credit for this high turnout. I think, in fact, conversely, the anger over those bills is what's driving people to the polls.

  • William Brangham:

    So interesting.

    I know you have also been monitoring polls today in different states. Have there been any irregularities that rise to the level of really paying attention to?

  • Jessica Huseman:

    You know what? Not so far.

    We have been following the election closely in Texas and in Georgia, and last week in Pennsylvania. And, essentially, all of the big problems that we saw — well, big is probably an exaggeration. Most of them have been basically routine.

    Even in a place like Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in which their ballot vendor misprinted several thousand ballots that were unable to be scanned, they were able to remedy that problem and recopy the ballots on to — recopy the votes on to valid ballots and count them with only a couple of days' delay, which is really an amazing thing logistically, if you consider it.

    And given all of the hubbub that's gone on over election administration and voting rights In the last six months, that election administrators have been able to pull off essentially error-free elections in the last couple of years is really stunning.

  • William Brangham:

    Yes, it's a terrific testament to the mechanics of democracy.

    There are — speaking of the hubbubs, one of the hubbubs has been this ongoing, much-debunked lie that the last election was riddled with fraud and that it was stolen from former President Trump. And a lot of the people who are running in some of these states are themselves proponents of that baseless theory.

    And there are a lot of voters that echo that, that do believe that there was terrible corruption in the last election. How do you see that those views and those candidates have actually played out in this — in this election?

  • Jessica Huseman:

    I'm really concerned about the trajectory of this.

    There are certainly a lot of folks running for offices that used to be sleepy bureaucratic positions held by people who really did want to work in the bureaucracy and help their neighbors out. Those positions are changing. They are now heavily politicized. They are now seen as a stepping-stone to higher office.

    And so we're seeing a lot of really troubling conspiracy theories being spread about by people running for the very offices who are supposed to safeguard these positions. And so that's really, really concerning.

  • William Brangham:

    What do you think that does to voters, who are somewhere in the back of their mind thinking, I have been hearing that this mechanic, this process is tainted?

  • Jessica Huseman:

    I think that you can only tell people for so long that the system is flawed before they choose to stop participating in it.

    And Georgia is an excellent example of this. There was not a single pollster in the country who would tell you that both Senate seats in Georgia in 2020 would flip to Democrats, but they did. And that's largely because Republicans elected not to vote by mail, because they were told that the system was flawed. And they figured, what's the point?

    And I think I see that on both sides of the aisle, right? If you listen to the very far left that is convinced that every single law that changes voting even a little bit is voter suppression, and they tell people that they're going to face monumental hurdles going to the polls, and then, more specifically and I think more detrimentally, on the right telling people that the entire system is flawed and has been rigged for a specific party, we're really facing a time of troublingly low confidence in American elections.

    And that has a huge effect on our ability to trust the workings of government in general.

  • William Brangham:

    Jessica Huseman of Votebeat, always good to see you. Thank you so much.

  • Jessica Huseman:

    Thank you.

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