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Georgia's voting law is eroding faith in democracy — and Trump's making it worse

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Residents Cast Ballots For Georgia Senate Runoff Election
Voters casts ballots for the Senate runoff elections at a polling location in Atlanta on Jan. 5, 2021.Dustin Chambers / Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If Georgia’s new election law was simply about restoring faith in America’s democracy among Republicans and Trump supporters, well, Donald Trump certainly hasn’t cooperated.

Trump this week blasted Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for failing to push through even stricter laws.

"Election Day is supposed to be Election Day, not Election Week or Election Month," Trump said. "Far too many days are given to vote."

So Georgia and the GOP, what are we doing here?

If the most charitable interpretation of the law was shoring up faith in the electoral system, Trump (after single-handedly torpedoing it) isn’t on board. And now after all of the law’s changes — including stripping authority from the secretary of state and local election officials — Democrats certainly don’t have faith in Georgia’s election system, either.

Bottom line: It’s easy to argue that the entire process has only weakened democracy.

In fact, there’s data that draws a direct line between Trump’s post-November statements and Georgia Republican voters’ plummeting faith in the election system.

As one of us wrote last month,

“As of exit polling up to Election Day in November, 84 percent of Georgia voters said they were confident that votes in the state would be counted accurately. In fact, more Georgia Trump voters were confident (89 percent) than Georgia Biden voters (79 percent).

But the exit polls from the January 5 special runoff election in Georgia showed a different story.

[W]hile just 10 percent of Trump voters in Georgia in November said they did not have faith in the vote count, that was up to 47 percent for backers of Republican Senate candidate Kelly Loeffler and 46 percent for those backing Republican Senate incumbent David Perdue in January.”

Of course, Trump’s statement is about two things: 1) retribution for Kemp and Raffensperger, whom he views as disloyal for resisting his narrative that he rightfully won the election; and 2) keeping alive the lie of widespread fraud, which he’ll continue to press as long as there’s any chance he’ll ever be on a ballot again.

After all, if he ever says the game has been un-rigged, it would mean that he could one day lose, fair and square.

Manchin’s warning shots aimed at both parties

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., fired two different warning shots at both parties with his Washington Post op-ed last night.

The first — aimed at Democrats — was his unequivocal opposition to changing the filibuster, as well as his unwillingness to use budget reconciliation to replace regular order in the Senate (committee hearings, etc.).

“There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster. The time has come to end these political games, and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation,” Manchin wrote.

“I simply do not believe budget reconciliation should replace regular order in the Senate,” he added.

But the second warning shot was aimed at Republicans: “Republicans,” he wrote, “have a responsibility to stop saying no, and participate in finding real compromise with Democrats.”

By the way, when it comes to President Biden’s infrastructure plan, our takeaway from the president’s remarks yesterday (as well as remarks from his Cabinet members) is that the administration wants to negotiate.

And if they want to negotiate, it sure seems like Manchin’s desire for a 25 percent corporate tax rate is going to be the eventual rate, right?

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

9 percentage points: The difference between the share of Americans who identify as Democrats (49 percent) and who identify as Republicans (40 percent) in new Gallup polling, the largest gap since 2012.

About three years: The acceleration of marijuana legalization in Virginia, where the state legislature approved a move to speed up enactment from 2024 to this July.

31,054,411: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 70,153 more than yesterday morning.)

563,084: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 889 more than yesterday morning.)

171,476,655: Number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S.

18 percent: The share of Americans who are fully vaccinated.

21: The number of days left for Biden to reach his 100-day vaccination goal.

Northam endorses McAuliffe in Democratic primary

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday endorsed his predecessor, Terry McAuliffe, in Virginia’s Democratic primary for governor.

“Terry’s strong record of delivering for Virginians is exactly why we need him as our next governor,” Northam said in a statement, per the AP, which first reported on the endorsement.

“We will need bold leadership ready to build a more equitable post-COVID economy that creates jobs, invests in workers, ensures equitable access to quality affordable health care, and rebuilds Virginia’s thriving network of small businesses,” Northam added.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Here’s what you need to know about the executive actions on guns that President Biden is expected to announce today.

Speaking of guns, there are new developments in an NRA bankruptcy hearing.

GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin says he’s running against Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2022.

A would-be candidate for Alabama Senate, GOP secretary of state John Merrill, is out of the race after denying — then admitting to — an extramarital affair.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says his party doesn’t need to “engage in every cultural battle.”

Past may not be prologue in the California recall race.

Don’t miss Jane Timm’s fact check on how strict voting laws are in blue and red states.

Investigators are looking into a trip Rep. Matt Gaetz took to the Bahamas.