Following record voter turnout in 2020, which helped Democrats take the White House and control of the US Senate, Republican lawmakers in Georgia are rushing to pass sweeping bills that would restrict ballot access and grant legislators new powers over elections.
This week, crucial decisions will be made. Just five legislative workdays remain on the state’s GOP-controlled General Assembly’s calendar until it adjourns on March 31. Both the House and Senate have stated that they plan to finalize amendments to election bills in the coming days.
An omnibus bill scheduled to be heard by a key House committee on Monday will mandate voter identification for absentee voting, restrict the use of ballot drop boxes, and disqualify most provisional ballots cast outside of voters’ home precincts. This will also make it illegal to serve food or soft drinks to voters as they wait in line.
Activists for voting rights in the state are particularly concerned about the following: Measures that take away the secretary of state’s authority and give state officials wide powers, including the right to replace local election officials.
“We are facing an emergency,” Hillary Holley, organizing director of Fair Fight Action, told CNN.
“This bill appears to be nothing but voter intimidation,” said Cliff Albright, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, despite last-minute changes to the package to preserve further weekend early voting. “The latest modifications are nothing more than Jim Crow getting a makeover and a cologne.”
His organization is planning a demonstration at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce headquarters in Atlanta on Monday to urge companies to condemn the bill as part of a week of protests.
The liberal Brennan Center for Justice tracked bills that would limit voting in 43 states in February. Since then, new bills have been introduced in North Carolina and Wisconsin, adding to the list.
Republicans in the state legislature have framed their actions as necessary to shore up a framework that has been ravaged by accusations of fraud. The House bill’s preamble stated that it was written “to remedy the lack of elector confidence in the election system on both sides of the political spectrum” and to encourage “voting uniformity.”
Former President Donald Trump and his supporters have stoked unfounded allegations that he was cheated out of the race. There is no proof of systematic fraud in Georgia or elsewhere that would have changed the election result. The state’s nearly 12,000-vote win for President Joe Biden was reaffirmed in three different ballot counts.
The legislation under review, according to voting rights advocates, would limit ballot access for large swaths of Georgia’s increasingly diverse population.
Older voters, low-income voters, and college students, according to Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, will be affected by ID requirements for absentee ballots because they are less likely to have driver’s licenses or other types of required identification, such as passports or a state or federal photo identification card.
Signature matching is currently used in absentee voting in Georgia, which Republican lawmakers contend is an inefficient method of verifying voters’ identities. According to the Georgia Secretary of State, a signature-match audit conducted after last November’s general election in Cobb County found “no fraudulent absentee ballots with a 99 percent confidence threshold.”
Signature matching is currently used in absentee voting in Georgia, which Republican lawmakers contend is an inefficient method of verifying voters’ identities. According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, a signature-match audit conducted after the general election in November found “no fraudulent absentee ballots with a 99 percent confidence threshold.”
The Georgia House bill will make it mandatory for voters to include their driver’s license or state ID numbers, as well as other identifying details such as their date of birth, on the ballots.
Georgia Republicans, Dennis told CNN, “are arguing that voting should be for the 1% and… for the wealthy.”