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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signs the voting law. Photo: Gov. Brian Kemp's Twitter feed.

Democrats control Washington, but Republicans have a mighty counterweight that gets little attention: dominance in the states and the courts.

State of play: The GOP controls a majority of statehouses and state legislatures + more state Supreme Court justices lean Republican than Democrat. All of this is backed by Republican-appointed majorities on federal appeals courts and the U.S. Supreme court. 

Why it matters: That one-two punch gives Republicans domain over a huge swath of America's governing system, including power over voting laws and the redistricting of House seats, plus the ability to use state courts to their advantage.

  • Just as Biden is taking a maximalist approach to Washington power; Republicans are doing the same state-by-state: 

We saw that power vividly on Friday when Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a new voting law that significantly tightens access to polls:

  • Elections "will never be the same in Georgia," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports atop today's front page, with changes that "will be felt by millions of voters, potentially with enough impact to alter the results of close elections in a sharply divided state."
  • There'll be tighter ID requirements for absentee and in-person voting, per-county limits on drop boxes, a ban on giving food and water to voters waiting in line, and more state control of county voting boards. 

Democrats see such changes, which Republicans are pushing in 43 states, as a real threat to their chances of winning congressional and other races.

  • President Biden yesterday called the Georgia law "an atrocity": "This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end. We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act."

Another big lever that Republican governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas have used aggressively: the ability to control the reopening of state economies amid the pandemic. 

By the numbers: Republicans have 27 of the 50 state governors, and control 30 state legislatures (compared to 18 for Democrats, with Minnesota divided and Nebraska nonpartisan). 

The catch: Republicans admit that states face very real limits in a federally dominated system. The most notable is federal control of economic policy, which leaves the states on the margins of most debates.

What’s next: Around the country, Republican-controlled state legislatures are trying to thwart Washington with action on guns, voting rights, abortion, transgender youth and participation of transgender students in athletics.

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Go deeper

Updated Mar 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Georgia's voting restrictions "Jim Crow in the 21st Century"

Photo: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden condemned Georgia's voter restrictions Friday, calling the newly-signed law "Jim Crow in the 21st century."

The big picture: Georgia is the first battleground state to pass such a law in the aftermath of the 2020 election. The law imposes new ID requirements, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and bans non-poll workers from giving food and water to voters in line, among other restrictions.

Updated 6 hours ago - World

Biden in call with Netanyahu raises concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza

Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday and raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.

The big picture: At least 140 Palestinians, including dozens of children, have been killed in Gaza since fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people, including two children, have been killed by Hamas rockets in Israel.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

"Horrified": AP, Al Jazeera condemn Israel's bombing of their offices in Gaza

A ball of fire erupts from the Jalaa Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Associated Press and Al Jazeera on Saturday condemned the Israeli airstrike that destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza that housed their and other media offices.

What they're saying: The White House, meanwhile, said it had "communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility," according to press secretary Jen Psaki.

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