A Republican strategist says GOP voting reform bills are about ‘providing cotton candy’ to the Trump-obsessed wing of the party

Brian Kemp bill signing
Gov. Brian Kemp signs SB 202 into law at the Georgia state Capitol in Atlanta on March 25, 2021.

  • Al Cárdenas, a Republican strategist, said Republican voting bills are “cotton candy” for the Trump base.
  • Cárdenas, who previously led the organization in charge of CPAC, made the comments on “Meet the Press.”
  • Republicans in several states have launched efforts to overhaul the voting process.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Al Cárdenas, a longtime Republican strategist who once led the organization that oversees CPAC, said Sunday that GOP bills to curtail voting rights are Republican leaders’ attempt to appeal to the Trump-obsessed wing of the party.

“These 20 some voter reform laws being proposed in all of these states are all about providing cotton candy to the far-right base that believed the Donald Trump big lie about the election being fraudulent,” Cardenas, the leader of the American Conservative Union from 2011 to 2014, said during an appearance on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

“Most of the voter suppression that takes place is run under the radar of laws and so forth,” he added. He referenced ProPublica data that showed voters in predominantly white areas of Georgia waited to vote eight times less often than voters in communities that were majority Black during the June 2020 primary election.

Cárdenas, now a senior partner at the Ohio-based Squire Patton Boggs law firm, pointed toward the number of polling stations, poll workers, and polling machines as examples of how minority voters can be supressed.

“I agree that we need to have a revamp of the Voting Rights Act,” he said of the landmark 1964 law that was in 2013 gutted by the Supreme Court. “If it was timely in the 60s, it’s even more timely now. But you need to look more at voter suppression at the local level – that’s where it really hits hard.”

Earlier in March, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, dubbed the For the People Act, which includes major voting rights expansions and stricter regulations on campaign spending.

A number of states with Republican leaders at the helm are considering bills to overhaul their voting systems.

The most prominent piece of legislation so far was a controversial bill signed last week into law in Georgia by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. The bill followed Georgia leaders, including Kemp, repeated rebuke of Trump’s false claims about widespread fraud in the state after his loss there.

The Georgia law introduces a number of changes, including one that makes it illegal to give food or water to people waiting in line to vote and another that limits the number of ballot drop-off boxes allowed.

Florida lawmakers are considering a controversial bill that would ban ballot drop boxes, would require more-frequent requests for mail-in ballots, and would only allow immediate family to handle someone’s ballot, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Trump for months following last year’s election refused to accept President Joe Biden’s win, repeatedly telling his followers that widespread voter fraud, of which there was no evidence, resulted in his loss. He and lawyers for his campaign lost dozens of lawsuits that attempted to challenge the results.

Trump’s continued claims about the election are widely considered to have led to the incitement of the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol that led to five deaths.

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