The struggle for voter access was at the center of attention in Georgia. After his loss to the state in 2020, former President Donald Trump spread conspiracy theories about the election. Republican supporters of the former president held on to his demands and tried to change electoral laws in Georgia and elsewhere in the name of electoral security, but the bills often made voting more difficult.
Republican lawmakers in Georgia proposed some additional measures that would have severely restricted access to the polls, including withdrawing the non-excusing absentee ballot and restricting the Sunday vote, popular with black voters during Souls to the Polls events . Neither of these measures was ultimately included in the package for Kemp’s desk.
Georgia is the youngest state to have passed a comprehensive election package. In Iowa, Republicans passed a bill tightening the receipt window for postal votesshortens the deadline for early personal voting from 29 to 20 days and saves one hour for personal voting on election day. Governor Kim Reynolds signed that earlier this month.
MP Nikema Williams, chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, described the law as “overtly racist” and “a slap in the face of Georgia’s civil rights heritage”. The governor “and the GOP are now trying to silence Georgia voters by making it harder to vote and letting partisan actors run local elections,” she said in a statement.
Although Republicans considered ending Sunday’s voting, Georgia law ultimately extends the weekend in-person voting. The law prescribes two days early voting on Saturday and the option of two voting days on Sunday. Many smaller counties in the state don’t currently offer as much weekend choice.
The law also adds identification to the procedure for applying for a postal vote, after previously only voters were required to sign an application. It also limits the time window in which ballots can be requested.
It also restricts the use of Dropboxes in the state and requires that each county have at least one Dropbox, but then limits any additional Dropbox that is “less than one Dropbox per 100,000 active registered voters in the county or count” of pre-selection locations in the county. “The law also requires the dropboxes to be either in the Registrar’s Committee or Election Commissioner’s office, or in an early voting location – and that they be closed unless an early voting is conducted.
It also prohibits the practice of “line warming,” where people on voting lines are given food or drink. During the Georgia primary, voters waited long hours in lines in some parts of the state, particularly in and around Atlanta. Most of these lines were not repeated for the general election. Voters standing in line may still have “self-service water from an unattended container” available.
Democrats and voting representatives have deeply criticized the bill, saying that it restricts voters’ access to the elections and puts power over the elections in the hands of the legislature.
Kemp’s remarks after the bill was signed were interrupted when a number of protesters gathered outside his office, including Democratic officials Park Cannon and Erica Thomas. “What is the problem?” he asked just before the end of a livestream of the event.
Videos posted on social media showed police officers arresting Cannon A protester said after knocking on the door of Kemp’s office to see the bill signed. When officers took Cannon away, the protesters asked the officers to explain the reason for their arrest.
“You have arrested a seated state representative for free,” called Thomas to the officials. “All she did was knock on the governor’s door. I’m done. I’m so done.”
The law “hurts color voters, raises taxes on families in trouble, and steals power from local governments”. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams tweeted earlier in the day.
Marc Elias, a prominent Democratic lawyer who led many of the election-related lawsuits in 2020, promised a lawsuit to question the law.
“Tonight we are filing a lawsuit on behalf of the New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter and Rise, a student organization, because we know these laws are all aimed at disenfranchising black voters, including young voters.” Elias said Thursday night on MSNBC.
Republicans upheld the law under the slogan “electoral integrity”. A preamble to the law states that “many voters [are] concerned about allegations of rampant electoral fraud “- although there is no evidence – and the suppression of voters.
The bill also targets the power of the secretary of state and local elections. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has been targeted by Trump and many Republicans in the state for failing to support Trump’s election fraud claims.
The law removes the Secretary of State as chairman of the State Electoral Committee and makes the position instead elected by the General Assembly. The five-member executive committee effectively hands this over to the state parliament, with the chairman being elected by both chambers and one member being appointed by each chamber. The law also gives the state election committee the option of suspending district electoral officials who are replaced by a person selected by the board.
Raffensperger faces a major challenge from Trump-backed MP Jody Hice (R-Ga.) Who has reinforced the former president’s misrepresentation about the 2020 elections.
The bill also cuts runoff time in the state after Republicans suffered two high-profile losses earlier this year. Then Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler both finished ahead of their Democratic challengers in November, but today’s Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won the runoff elections in January.
The law cuts the drain time from nine weeks to four weeks. This would shorten the early term in the state and give voters less time to return their ballots. It would also end all party primaries for special elections.
Benjamin Din and Nick Niedzwiadek contributed to this report.