Georgia GOP-controlled House passes sweeping elections bill
Georgia’s Republican-controlled state House passed a sweeping elections bill on Thursday that seeks to overhaul the state’s voting laws after a series of GOP defeats in recent months.
The measure includes proposals to create new absentee voter ID requirements and limit ballot drop boxes. It also seeks to shorten the timeline for runoff elections from the current nine-week timeframe to just four weeks.
The bill passed in a party-line vote, with Democrats objecting to it across the board. Republicans have argued that the legislation will increase confidence in the elections process after former President Trump and his allies spent months alleging without evidence that the results of the 2020 presidential race in Georgia were tainted by fraud and malfeasance.
The vote in the state House on Thursday brings the bill one step closer to becoming law. It now heads to the state Senate. State lawmakers are in the final days of the 2021 legislative session and are up against a tight deadline to finish their work.
If signed into law, the bill would have sweeping implications for election oversight and administration in Georgia.
Under the proposal, voters would need to provide a driver’s license or state-issued ID card number to request and submit absentee ballots. The current system relies on signature matching, in which a voter’s signature on their ballot is compared to a signature on file.
The bill would also curtail the use of ballot drop boxes, limiting their placement to early-voting locations and making them accessible only while the precinct is open.
The legislation also proposes allowing the Georgia State Elections Board to effectively take over county elections boards. What’s more, it would remove the Georgia secretary of state as chair of the state elections board.
Democrats and voting rights advocates have fiercely criticized the election law reforms, accusing Republican lawmakers of trying to restrict voting access after sky-high turnout in the November general election and two January runoffs helped Democrats win the White House and Senate.
Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group founded by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, condemned the House’s passage of the bill on Thursday, calling the legislation an “anti-democratic power grab” by the GOP.
“Across the board, Georgians overwhelmingly oppose the GOP’s reckless and dangerous anti-voting legislation #SB202,” the group tweeted. “It’s time for leaders across the state to stand with Georgians — and against this legislation.”
Republicans have claimed that the bill would expand voting access, pointing to a provision in the bill that would require two mandatory early voting dates on Saturdays and giving counties the option to hold early voting on two Sundays.
But the bill also takes aim at the state’s absentee-ballot request period, setting the deadline for voters to request absentee ballots at 11 days before an election. It also calls for prohibiting people from giving food or drinks to voters waiting in line to cast their ballots.
The election law overhaul comes at a crucial time for both parties. Georgia is slated to hold several hotly contested elections next year, including a Senate race in which Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) will face voters again after winning a runoff against former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) in January.
At the same time, Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger are facing reelection next year. Trump has vowed to campaign against both of them after both refused his pleas to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.