Georgia Senate Passes Election Law Overhaul to Limit Mail-In Voting
Bills ends 'no-excuse' absentee voting, enforces new voter ID rules
Georgia's Senate has passed legislation that seeks to overhaul election laws by limiting mail-in voting and enforcing stricter voter ID rules.
The state Senate approved the bill to strengthen Georgia's election laws by repealing so-called "no-excuse" absentee voting and limiting mail-in ballots to certain criteria, among other provisions.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Senate Bill 241 passed the chamber in a party-line 29-20 vote.
The legislation is moving to the House where it is expected to pass before heading to the desk of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
Under the new bill, the state would limit the number of people who can apply for absentee ballots to those over 65 years of age, those who have a physical disability, and those who are out of town.
Voters would also be required to present a driver’s license or some other form of identification before receiving their absentee ballot.
The bill would eliminate the controversial no-excuse absentee voting, something that has been allowed in Georgia since 2005.
In addition, Georgia would be required to participate in a nongovernmental multi-state voter registration system to cross-check the eligibility of voters.
The state’s current participation is voluntary.
The bill also clarifies a law about mobile voting units, saying that these units be used only to replace current brick-and-mortar voting facilities, and not supplement them.
Under the bill, a telephone hotline would be set up to receive complaints and reports regarding voter intimidation and election fraud, which would be reviewed by the Attorney General within three days.
The state Republican caucus said the hotline would help build trust in the election system since the host of the hotline, the Attorney General, is separate from the office running the election, the Secretary of State’s office.
“We’ve spent several hundred hours doing research and policy development around election integrity, addressing the lack of faith and integrity in our current election systems as expressed by many of our citizens,” the Georgia Senate Republican Caucus said in a statement.
“We encourage all citizens to practice their civic duty, and in return, it is our responsibility to ensure public confidence and trust in the system, ensuring our rights are protected.
"SB 241 codifies open and honest reformation to a multitude of areas regarding election oversight, voting processes, and transparency.”
Shortly prior to the vote on the bill, Georgia Republicans issued a statement saying, “We want every person to vote. We want elections to be secure. We are open to solutions, but Georgia will not be vulnerable to voter fraud.”
The statement presumably refers to the 2020 presidential election, which saw numerous allegations of voting irregularities and allegations of election fraud.
Republican Majority Leader Mike Dugan, the main sponsor of the bill, said that amid the coronavirus pandemic in the last election cycle, a surge in absentee ballots posed a burden on county election offices, reported The Associated Press.
“The increasing burden on local election offices and the increased cost to each of our counties has risen significantly,” Dugan said, according to the news wire service.
“In recent years the number of mail-in absentee ballots has increased to the point where counties are in essence running three elections simultaneously.”
He added that an estimated 2.7 million Georgians would still be eligible to vote absentee under the criteria outlined in the bill.
Former state representative and failed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams likened the legislation to “Jim Crow” segregation laws.
She also accused the GOP of expressly trying to suppress black voters.
“We are seeing again and again this version of Jim Crow in a suit and tie,” Abrams told Mother Jones.
“It is designed explicitly for the same reason as Jim Crow did, to block communities of color from active participation in choosing the leadership that will guide their democracy.”
Last week, the House passed its own version of an election reform bill, HB 531, which has many overlaps with SB 241.
However, the House bill would still allow no-excuse absentee voting.