Joe Biden went on ESPN to endorse the demand of the Major League Baseball Players Union that MLB’s All-Star game be relocated from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s new voting law. MLB Commissioner Bob Manfred then promptly announced he would, in fact, relocate the All-Star Game because that was “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport.” He was evidently responding not only to Biden’s criticisms of the new law but to demands from Stacey Abrams, Al Sharpton, and others that MLB denounce it. He apparently believed that keeping the All-Star Game in Atlanta would elicit disruptive political protests and player protests. So how restrictive is the law? Is Biden right to say it’s “Jim Crow on steroids?” And how does it compare with election laws in other states with MLB teams, or in other countries where Manfred wants to establish MLB teams and operations?
A section of the law which prohibits people from supplying voters with food and water within 150 feet of a polling place does seem harsh. Its intent is to prevent representatives from candidates and interest groups from electioneering on behalf of their causes by distributing food and water to voters. But election officials can make water available, and voters can always bring their own water with them anyway, so what’s the problem?
The Washington Post, whose liberal editorial page has regularly endorsed Democratic presidential nominees, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden, further claims that Georgia’s new law makes “it harder to cast absentee ballots, reducing drop boxes for mail ballots, barring mobile voting places and for making significant procedural changes that potentially give more power to the GOP-controlled legislature in the election process.” But the Post also admits that Biden’s most harsh and frequent criticism of the law is flat-out false.
Biden said that the law will limit the hours during which Georgians can vote. At his March 25 press conference, Biden said, “What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It’s sick. It’s sick … deciding that you’re going to end voting at five o’clock when working people are just getting off work.” The next day he said, “Among the outrageous parts of this new state law, it ends voting hours early so working people can’t cast their vote after their shift is over.”
As the Post and other outlets have said, Biden’s remarks are simply false. The new law provides for the polls on Election Day to remain open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, not 5:00 pm, as Biden keeps saying. Moreover, the new law mandates that counties permit early voting for a minimum of eight hours a day, an expansion over what the previous law required. The Post concluded that “One could understand a flub in a news conference. But then this same claim popped up in an official presidential statement. Not a single expert we consulted who has studied the law understood why Biden made this claim, as this was the section of law that expanded early voting for many Georgians. Somehow Biden managed to turn that expansion into a restriction aimed at working people, calling it ‘among the outrageous parts’ of the law. There’s no evidence that is the case. The president earns Four Pinocchios.”
There’s no evidence in Manfred’s statements to indicate he has actually read the law, or news analyses of the law, or really has any idea of what’s in it. This becomes especially clear when one compares Georgia with places to which Manfred actually wants to maintain or even expand MLB operations.
Karl Rove has compared Georgia’s laws to those of other states which have more restrictive voting laws yet which also have MLB teams or operations undisturbed by Manfred and free of criticism from Biden. Rove writes, for example:
Georgia has a robust early-voting period, expanded by the new law to 17 days, with two optional Sundays. New York has only eight days of early voting, while neighboring Connecticut and New Jersey have none. You’d think the woke commissioner would speak out against these “restrictions to the ballot box,” but you’d be wrong.
If Mr. Manfred’s concerns were authentic, he’d condemn states such as Missouri, which has two major-league teams—the Royals and the Cardinals—but doesn’t allow no-excuse absentee voting or early voting. But he won’t.
There’s no early voting in Michigan, so you’d think he’d work to ensure every Tiger fan “participates in shaping the United States,” which he said he wants for “everyone.” But again, he won’t.
Ohio and Pennsylvania each have two pro baseball teams, yet neither state has early voting. Minnesota has the Twins and Wisconsin the Brewers, yet no early voting. While Massachusetts allowed no-excuse vote by mail in 2020 because of the pandemic, it expires June 30. And Red Sox fans across the border in New Hampshire must have an excuse to vote by mail and there’s no early voting. When will Mr. Manfred speak out against all this voter suppression? Or is Georgia the only state worthy of his condemnation?
And there’s Cuba and China. He wants an MLB team in Cuba, and more broadcasts of MLB games in China. Both Cuba and especially China are brutal Communist dictatorships. China in particular keeps threatening the freedom of Taiwan, has destroyed the freedom of Hong Kong, and, according to Joe Biden’s Justice Department, is committing genocide against the Uighurs. So how can Manfred possibly claim that either Cuba or China has less restrictive voting laws than Georgia?
In deciding to move the MLB All-Star Game from Atlanta at Biden’s behest, Manfred has only deepened the political controversy in which he finds himself. And to make matters worse, Biden and Abrams have begun to question the wisdom of relocations and boycotts since whatever else they do, they cause job losses and other damage to the local economy. That leaves Manfred increasingly alone in his decision, facing criticisms as best he can. Tough.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.