Georgia has overhauled how the state votes. Here’s why it matters
Georgia’s election reform, led by Republicans, comes just months after a majority of Georgians elected a pair of Democrats to the U.S. Senate and supported President Joe Biden
Republicans in Georgia have passed a massive election overhaul bill that will change how voters cast their ballots in the Peach State. Opponents of the bill say it is a return to Jim Crow era limits.
Support for the legislation was divided between the parties, with GOP majorities in the Georgia House and Senate shepherding the bill to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk moments after it passed the state assembly Thursday evening, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“Significant reforms to our state elections were needed. There’s no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled, and those problems, understandably, led to a crisis of confidence in the ballot box here in Georgia,” said Kemp after signing the bill, named SB202, reported the Journal-Constitution.
Georgia state Rep. Park Cannon, a Democrat from Atlanta, was arrested and led away by state police for “protesting” and knocking on Kemp’s office door during a closed-door signing of the bill, Atlanta’s Fox 5 reported. Cannon was charged with “obstruction of law enforcement, a felony punishable by one to five years in prison, and preventing or disrupting general assembly sessions or other meetings of members,” according to Fox 5.
Georgia election officials and former Trump administration attorney general William Barr have said there was no evidence of election fraud. The former president’s Department of Homeland Security “declared the 2020 election the most secure in history,” according to Vox.
Georgia’s new voting laws
So what does SB202 mean for the Peach State’s voters? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains:
- Absentee ballots will now require driver’s license verification — or other documentation — not voter signature matching.
- Drop boxes for ballots will be located inside early voting facilities, which will only be accessible during business hours.
- General elections will include a pair of mandatory Saturday voting options, while allowing counties to decide on Sunday voting.
- Runoffs will happen four weeks after general elections, with a reduced minimum of one week of early runoff voting.
- The absentee ballots request deadline will be 11 days before election day.
- Food and water cannot be given to voters waiting in line to vote by members of the public, while election workers can set up self-service water stations.
- The State Election Board can replace county election boards with an interim election manager.
- The attorney general’s office will create a hotline to report illegal election activities.
- Counties will have six days, down from 10 days, to certify election results and election workers must count without stopping.
‘Jim Crow 2.0’
Opponents of Georgia’s new voting regulations say the bill will suppress voter turnout and disproportionately affect voters of color.
“Now more than ever, we need federal action to protect voting rights as we continue to fight against these blatantly unconstitutional efforts that are nothing less than Jim Crow 2.0.,” said Stacy Abrams, a former Georgia state congresswoman and gubernatorial candidate, on Twitter Thursday.
Abrams has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her years of effort to increase the turnout of Black voters in Georgia, which has been credited for Democrats’ presidential and U.S. Senate victories there this past election cycle, The Hill reported.
Now more than ever, we need federal action to protect voting rights as we continue to fight against these blatantly unconstitutional efforts that are nothing less than Jim Crow 2.0.— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) March 25, 2021
Voting rights groups — The New Georgia Project, Rise and the Black Voters Matter Fund —have sued the state, alleging “the restrictions violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the 14th Amendment by inflicting ‘unjustifiable burdens’ that disproportionately affect people of color and young, poor and disabled citizens,” Axios reported Friday.
Republicans across the country are calling for voting reform in their states, but some experts point out that current election laws — like those that involve mail-in voting — were actually first created by GOP lawmakers.
“I don’t ever want (to) climb into the mind of Donald Trump and figure out why he’s doing what he’s doing, but if you look pre-Donald Trump, many of the states that were the most aggressive in implementing vote-by-mail were run by Republicans,” said Brigham Young University political science professor Michael Barber, Vox reported.