Georgia enacts law adding identification requirement to absentee voting

The battle for voter access has received intense attention in Georgia. After his loss to the state in 2020, former President Donald Trump spread conspiracy theories about the elections. Republican supporters of the former president stuck to his claims and sought to change electoral laws in Georgia and elsewhere in the name of electoral security, but the bills often make voting difficult.

Republican lawmakers in Georgia proposed some additional measures that would have drastically reduced access to the polls, including reversing unexcused absentee voting and restricting Sunday voting, which is popular with black voters during “Souls to the Polls” events. None of those measures were ultimately included in the package laid out for Kemp’s desktop.

Georgia is the latest state to pass a comprehensive electoral package. In Iowa, Republicans passed a law that reduces the window for receiving absentee ballots, reduces the early voting period in person from 29 days to 20 days and reduces one hour of in-person voting on Election Day. Governor Kim Reynolds signed it into law earlier this month.

Rep. Nikema Williams, who chairs the state Democratic Party, called the law “blatantly racist” and “a slap in the face of Georgia’s civil rights legacy.” The governor “and the Republican Party are now trying to completely silence Georgia voters by making it more difficult to cast a vote and allowing partisan actors to take charge of local elections,” he said in a statement.

Although Republicans considered ending Sunday voting, Georgia’s law nonetheless ultimately expands in-person voting on weekends. The law requires two days of early voting on Saturdays and gives the option of two days of voting on Sundays. Currently, many smaller counties in the state don’t offer as much when it comes to weekend voting.

The law also adds an identification requirement to the process for requesting an absentee ballot, after previously only voters were required to sign an application. It also reduces the window of time during which ballots can be requested.

It also restricts the use of mailboxes in the state, requiring each county to have at least one mailbox, but then limits any additional mailboxes that total the “less than one mailbox per 100,000 active registered voters in the county or the number of registered voters. early voting locations in the county. “The law also requires mailboxes to be located in the office of the board of registrars or ballot clerk or within early voting locations, and to be closed when not in progress. early voting.

It also prohibits the practice of “line warming,” which provides people in the voting lines with food or drinks. During the Georgia primary, voters waited in lines for many hours in some parts of the state, especially in and around Atlanta. For the most part, those lines were not repeated for the general election. There may still be “self-serve water from an unattended receptacle” available to voters waiting in line.

Democrats and advocates of the right to vote have been deeply critical of the bill, saying it restricts voters’ access to the polls and puts power over elections in the hands of the legislature.

The law “hurts voters of color, raises taxes on struggling families, and robs local governments of power.” Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams tweeted earlier in the day.. Marc Elias, a prominent Democratic lawyer who spearheaded many of the 2020 election-related lawsuits, promised a lawsuit defying the law.

Republicans defended the law under the banner of “electoral integrity.” A preamble to the law says that “many voters [are] concerned about allegations of rampant voter fraud, ”despite no evidence of that happening, and voter suppression.

The bill also targets the power of the secretary of state and local electoral boards. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, was targeted by Trump and many Republicans in the state because he did not support Trump’s election fraud allegations.

The law removes the secretary of state as chairman of the state electoral board, causing the position to be elected by the state General Assembly. This effectively hands the five-person board over to the state legislature, with the president elected by both houses and one member appointed by each house. The law also gives the state board of elections the ability to suspend county election officials, who are replaced by a person elected by the board.

Raffensperger faces a major challenge from Trump-backed Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), Who has pushed the former president’s false narrative about the 2020 election.

The law also shortens the state’s runoff period, after Republicans suffered a couple of major losses earlier this year. Then-Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler finished ahead of their Democratic rivals in November, but now-Democratic Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won the runoff in January.

The law shortens the runoff period from nine to four weeks. That would shorten the early voting period in the state and give voters less time to mail their ballots. It would also end all-party primaries for special elections.

Nick Niedzwiadek contributed to this report.

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