Georgia passes far-reaching voting measure
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) on Thursday signed a sweeping elections bill into law, tightening voting rules in the state by limiting the use of ballot drop boxes and setting photo ID requirements for absentee voting, among other restrictions.
Just an hour earlier, the GOP-controlled state General Assembly gave final approval to the measure in a party-line vote.
The voting bill is among dozens being considered by state legislatures across the country after the 2020 presidential election, during which former President Trump spread claims that voter fraud and systemic irregularities had cost him reelection.
While there’s no evidence to support Trump’s claims, many Republican state lawmakers have proven eager to respond to the former president’s grievances and have sought to push through legislation that Democrats and voting rights advocates say amounts to widespread voter suppression and disenfranchisement.
The legislation approved by the Georgia General Assembly on Thursday seeks sweeping changes to the state’s voting rules and procedures.
It would require voters to provide a driver’s license or state-issued ID card number to request and submit absentee ballots, and it would 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 gives the Georgia State Elections Board the ability to effectively take over county elections boards in areas that it determines are in need of oversight. The secretary of state would also be removed as chair of the State Elections Board, a proposal that critics say would strip the state’s top elections official of a key power.
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.
Democrats see the bill as a direct response by GOP legislators to the party’s spate of electoral losses in recent months.
In November, President Biden became the first Democrat to win a presidential race in Georgia since 1992. Two months later, in January, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock successfully ousted former Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) in a pair of runoff elections that effectively handed Democrats the Senate majority.
A major driving force behind those wins was a surge in Democratic turnout that was helped along by absentee voting and an aggressive get-out-the-vote campaign that ushered in a wave of new voters, including many people of color and young voters.
The bill passed by the General Assembly on Thursday also seeks to shorten the timeline for runoff elections in Georgia, cutting it back from its current nine weeks to just four weeks after the general election.
Even before the bill won final approval by lawmakers, Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and voting rights leader, predicted a swift passage for the bill, accusing Republican legislators of trying to limit public review and awareness of the proposals.
“What’s likely to come for SB 202: quick passage by GA Senate & a speedy signature by Kemp,” Abrams tweeted. “Why? To avoid actual analysis + public awareness of how SB 202 hurts voters of color, increases taxes on struggling families & steals power from local governments. Today’s GA GOP.
Republicans, however, have defended the bill as a step toward increasing confidence in the elections process after Trump spent months seeking to discredit the system. They have also pushed back on assertions that the legislation would curtail voting rights, 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.
Updated: 6:47 p.m.