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Georgia's GOP-led Senate passes bill requiring ID for absentee voting
The Georgia state Senate on Tuesday passed legislation that would require voters to submit a driver's license number, state identification card number or a photocopy of an approved form of identification in order to vote absentee in the state.
The bill has already been met with opposition from Democrats and voting rights groups who say the legislation would make it difficult for voters who don't have a driver's license or state identification card to vote absentee. According to the AP, absentee ballots are currently tallied using signature verification.
State Sen. Larry Walker, one of the Republicans sponsoring the bill, said the bill would not affect about 97 percent of voters, according to the AP. The remaining percentage of voters, Walker said, could vote in person.
In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, voting rights group Fair Fight Action said the bill would add "needless barriers to voting in Georgia" and accused proponents of the measure of ignoring voters who would be affected by the legislation.
"In Georgia, with more than 7,692,567 registered voters, that means that 230,777 electors may not have the requisite identification and will therefore incur a burden in complying with the law," the group said, while also adding that the "discriminatory policy" shows "Georgia has not moved past the racist motivations for which it was included in preclearance under the Voting Rights Act of 1965."
The bill, which has more than 25 Republican co-sponsors, is one of a number of bills Republicans have filed in the Georgia General Assembly that would directly impact voting, particularly absentee voting, and voter registration in the state.
Another bill advanced by a state Senate subcommittee in a party-line 3-2 vote would, if passed, require Georgians who wish to vote by absentee to meet certain requirements in order to do so. As of now, the state does not require voters to have a reason to vote absentee.
Republican legislators have said the voting legislation is intended to help boost confidence in election security in Georgia.
"It's not about disenfranchising voters. It's not about overly burdening the electorate. It's about efficiency, integrity, allowing the Georgia public to have confidence in the vote," Walker claimed on Tuesday, according to the AP.
"The public can have confidence and trust in the integrity of our election results," he said.
However, Democrats and voting rights advocates have argued the bills are unnecessary and come in response to the wins their party secured in the presidential election and last month's pivotal U.S. Senate runoff races.
State Sen. Sen. David Lucas (D) said ahead of the passage of Senate Bill 67 on Tuesday that his colleagues across the aisle "want to perpetuate the lie that Trump told" with the election bills.
Former President Trump repeatedly spread claims of widespread election fraud in the weeks that followed his defeat to Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential election. Courts, state voting officials and federal investigators have repeatedly shot down those claims.
Georgia, a former reliably red state, flipped blue for the for the first time since 1992 after seeing record turnout in early voting and absentee voting amid the pandemic. Weeks after the election, the state also raised eyebrows during the Senate runoffs in early January after then-incumbent Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R) and David Perdue (R) were unseated by Democrats the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
Since those victories, Republican legislators in the state have filed a series of election-related bills that voting rights advocates say could make it more difficult for Georgia voters to cast a ballot.
Last week, Georgia Republicans also filed a sweeping 48-page election bill that would place further limitations on voting if passed, including a provision that would prohibit counties and municipalities from holding advance voting on Sundays, a day that Black churches in the state have previously used to increase voter participation among congregants with "Souls to the Polls" efforts.
The bill drew swift backlash from civil rights groups, as well as Bishop Reginald Thomas Jackson, presiding prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which includes more than 500 churches in the Peach State.
Jackson called the bill "another attempt to suppress the Black vote" after the state saw large turnout from the voting bloc, which was seen as key to helping Democrats secure victories in the state.
"It was these very same Republicans who passed these laws a few years ago that provided for absentee ballot, that provided for early voting, that provided for ballot boxes," Jackson said on Monday.
"These very same Republicans, when it worked for them, it was nothing wrong with them. But now that Blacks and people of color are using these processes to vote, that's why now they say we've got to stop it," he added.