By Ben Jealous
Sen. Ted Cruz is a shameless liar. And he isn’t even a very good one. Witness his latest dishonest defense of Georgia’s new voter suppression law.
Cruz published a column in the Wall Street Journal attacking business leaders who have criticized the anti-voting law. He claimed that critics were hurting the reputations of “patriotic leaders protecting our elections and expanding the right to vote.”
Expanding the right to vote? As I said, he is shameless.
First, let’s remember where this new law came from. Georgia Republicans pushed it through after President Joe Biden and Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won their elections. The law has one purpose: to prevent future victories by Democrats by making it harder for particular groups of people—Black people, working people, women, people with disabilities, and younger and older people—to vote.
The first draft of the law made this racist intention clear by banning early voting on Sundays, when many Black churches encourage people to vote through Souls to the Polls events.
The racism behind that piece of the law was so obvious that even Republicans had to water it down in the final bill. But we will not forget what motivated it, or that the rest of the law is designed to achieve the same purpose.
In his column, Cruz mentioned a few pieces of the law to try to make it sound reasonable. But it isn’t. It includes new limits on early voting hours, big reductions in the amount of time people have to request an absentee ballot, and sharp decreases in the availability of drop boxes that make it easier for voters to turn in their ballots.
My friend Stacey Abrams, the voting-rights activist who knows the system in Georgia better than anyone else, schooled Cruz and his Republican colleague, Sen. John Kennedy, when they tried to challenge her criticism of the law. She identified such a long list of problems with the law that Kennedy finally asked her to stop.
The problem goes way beyond Georgia. Similar laws have been passed in Florida and Arizona and other states controlled by Republicans are getting ready to pass laws that purge eligible voters off registration lists and put up other roadblocks to the ballot box.
In his op ed, Cruz issued a threat to business leaders who have dared to speak out in defense of voting rights. He suggested that Republicans would stop helping them out on taxes or regulations.
But that was just more distraction. In fact, the Center for Media and Democracy recently exposed the real truth. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that helps big business and right-wing groups get their policies passed into laws at the state level, has been pushing legislators to pass voter suppression bills so they can keep corporation-friendly Republicans in power.
These laws are attacks on voting rights and democracy, just like the Jim Crow laws that some states used to keep Black people from registering and voting. And they are designed to prevent passage of progressive policies like raising the minimum wage and expanding access to health care.
We must respond as a nation to protect the right to vote. The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed the For the People Act, which includes voting rights protections that would overrule the states’ new attacks on voting.
And guess what? Ted Cruz is telling shameless lies about the For the People Act. He claimed that Democrats “want illegal aliens and non-citizens to be automatically registered to vote.” Not true. He even said this voting rights law would be “Jim Crow 2.0.” Really, Ted? That’s a stretch even for you.
Ted Cruz is not the only Republican calling good evil and evil good when it comes to voter suppression. Other members of Congress, state Republican leaders, and right-wing media are all trying to hang onto political power by denying other people the right to earn it at the ballot box. Democrats can’t let them get away with it. We can’t let them get away with it.
Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation. Jealous has decades of experience as a leader, coalition builder, campaigner for social justice and seasoned nonprofit executive. In 2008, he was chosen as the youngest-ever president and CEO of the NAACP. He is a graduate of Columbia University and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and he has taught at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania.