State Watch

Georgia Senate committee passes legislation seeking to end no-excuse absentee voting

Georgia state senators passed legislation this week that would place limitations on absentee voting, months after the reliably red state turned blue in the November election following record turnout from absentee voters. 

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the bill, which seeks to place further restrictions on who can vote absentee, was advanced by a state Senate subcommittee in a party-line 3-2 vote on Wednesday.

The measure would require a reason for each person to vote absentee such as being "absent from his or her precinct during the time of the primary," having a physical disability that would prevent them from being able to go to the polls or being at least 75 years of age.

As of now, the state does not require voters to have a reason to vote absentee.

The bill is among a a series pushed by GOP state lawmakers that voting rights advocates say could make it more difficult for Georgia voters to cast a ballot.

On Thursday, the state Senate's GOP-led ethics committee, also passed a bill in a 7-4 vote that seeks to make it mandatory for voters' absentee ballot applications to include their driver's license number, their card number for state identification or photocopies of their form of identification.

The measure has been met with pushback from Democratic legislators who say the bill would make it more difficult for voters that don't possess a driver's license or state identification card to vote absentee, the Journal-Constitution reported.

Under current law, voters in the Peach State only have to include their driver's license number to request absentee ballots online, according to AJC. 

Democratic Georgia state Sen. Ed Harbison also expressed concerns about identity theft for voters that would have to mail more of their personal information to vote absentee if the bill is passed.

"I think you're trying to cure a problem in your mind. The truth of the matter is, I think you're opening that privacy door," Harbison said in a statement obtained by the outlet. 

State Sen. Larry Walker, one of the Republicans sponsoring the measure, told the newspaper the "purpose of this proposal is not to make it hard to cast a legal ballot, but to make it harder to cast an illegal ballot."

"The public can have confidence and trust in the integrity of our election results," he said. 

Passage of the bills come after state lawmakers also filed a number of other election-related bills earlier this month. A chunk of the bills would directly impact how voting and voter registration is carried out in the state after it saw record absentee voter turnout during the November presidential election. 

The legislation immediately drew backlash from voting rights advocates at the time, including from Fair Fight, a national voting rights organization founded by former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

Seth Bringman, a spokesman for the organization, called the series of legislation an "unhinged set of voter suppression bills" in a statement then and said they were "designed to limit access and help Republicans stop losing elections in Georgia."

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