A Republican lawmaker in Georgia has sparked outrage by suggesting he opposes new Sunday voting hours because they’ll primarily benefit African-Americans—then explaining that he simply “would prefer more educated voters.” But take away the overt racism, and state Rep. Fran Millar was only giving the official Republican position on the issue. After a visit to Atlanta by Michelle Obama to register black voters in advance of Georgia’s closely-fought U.S. Senate race, Millar took to Facebook to criticize a county official for green-lighting Sunday voting at a local mall. “Michelle Obama comes to town and Chicago politics comes to DeKalb,” Millar wrote. “Per Jim Galloway of the [Atlanta Journal Constitution], this location is dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches such as New Birth Missionary Baptist.” He added: “Is it possible church buses will be used to transport people directly to the mall since the poll will open when the mall opens? If this happens, so much for the accepted principle of separation of church and state.”
After some angry responses, Millar tried to explain himself. “I never claimed to be non-partisan,” he wrote. “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters.”
… As the election law scholar Rick Hasen has argued, this isn’t only about raw partisanship. “Conservatives see voting as about choosing the ‘best’ candidate or ‘best’ policies (meaning limits on who can vote, when, and how might make the most sense), and liberals see it as about the allocation of power among political equals,” Hasen wrote on Slate earlier this year, in a story headlined “The New Conservative Assault on Early Voting.” “Cutting back on early voting fits with the conservative idea of choosing the ‘best’ candidate by restraining voters from making supposed rash decisions, rather than relying on them to make choices consistent with their interests.”
But that shouldn’t obscure the basic reality: When Millar says having more educated voters is preferable to having more numerous voters, he’s only toeing the party line.