The sweeping rewrite of Georgian electoral rules signed in late March by Republican Governor Brian Kemp brings numerous changes to the way elections will be administered, including a new requirement with photo ID to vote absent by mail.
Republican supporters say the law is needed to restore confidence in Georgia’s elections. Democrats say it will limit voting rights, especially for voters of color. Here are some of the main issues:
African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Reginald Jackson announces boycott of Coca-Cola Co. products outside the Georgia Capitol on Thursday, March 25, 2021 in Atlanta
The state election council can now take over local election offices and replace officials
Much of the election work in Georgia is done by the state’s 159 counties. The law gives the state election board new powers to intervene in county election offices and to remove and replace local election officials. This has raised concerns that the state administration controlled by the Republican administration could have more influence on the conduct of elections, including the certification of county results.
A target for intervention could be Fulton County, a Democratic stronghold that encompasses most of Atlanta. The densely populated province is plagued with problems, including long queues, and is often praised by Republican officials. By law, the administration could intervene in up to four provinces simultaneously and appoint a temporary inspector with the ability to hire and fire personnel, including election directors and pollsters.
Protesters in Atlanta hold a rally outside the World Of Coca-Cola museum to protest the Coca-Cola company’s donations to various politicians who support various ballots that attempt to suppress the voter
Anyone who hands out snacks or water to voters in line can be prosecuted
The new law makes it a felony for ‘anyone who gives, offers to give or participates in money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink’ to anyone standing in line to vote. The ban extends 50 meters from a polling station and 7 meters from any person standing in line.
Proponents of the law say they are trying to crack down on political organizations or advocacy groups that try to influence voters just before casting a vote. Critics say it is cruel and would even punish non-partisan groups or individuals for something as simple as giving water to someone waiting in a long line. Gloria Butler, leader of the Democratic state’s minorities, condemned the bill Thursday before the bill was signed into law, saying, “They want to make it a crime to bring Grandma some water while she’s waiting in line.”
Georgia lawmakers argue that polling stations would be able, but not required, to set up self-service water dispensers for voters.
Some advocates of the law, including Tucker Carlson, have claimed that the ban on handing out water only pertains to political organizations – which is the law in Montana.
But Georgian law specifically says “any person” – and can include friends and family of voters in line.
Early ballots and black voters as Georgia residents attended church were considered essential to securing Senate victories for Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
Voting at the beginning of the weekend is extensive rather than limited
Republicans had once proposed restricting early weekend voting, a time when many black churches are leading “ souls to the polls ” to get congregants to vote. But the Republicans turned back, and the measure now extends early voting on the weekend. Previously, a weekend vote was required, whereby the provinces were given the opportunity to offer more. Now two Saturdays are required, and counties can also offer two voting days on Sundays. Republicans point to this provision to claim that they are actually expanding rather than limiting voting rights.
“Contrary to the hyper-partisan rhetoric you may have heard inside and outside this golden dome, the facts are that this new law will expand voting rights in the Peach State,” Kemp said Thursday.
State Representative Park Cannon, D-Atlanta, is placed in the back of a Georgia State Capitol patrol car after being arrested by Georgia State Troopers at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta, Thursday, March 25, 2021.
Georgia’s run-off races will be cut short
Georgia is the only state in the nation to mandate final elections between the top two candidates after general elections in which no candidate achieves a majority. Like some other states, Georgia also imposes sanctions on candidates who fail to achieve a majority in a party priority.
The system was scrutinized by Republicans after Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won two run-offs in January.
The new law shortens the time for layoffs from nine weeks to four, with lawmakers saying the current period is ‘exhausting’ and should be shortened to a ‘more manageable period’.
Military and foreign voters will use absentee ballots ranked by choice to rank all possible candidates prior to a primary or general election so that their preferences can be determined in a possible run-off. Georgia had just three weeks to run-offs until 2013, when a federal judge ordered a wider gap to give military and foreign voters more time to return their ballots.
The shorter period means that there is less time for early voting and postal voting. The early votes had lasted three weeks before the elections took place. Now, the early vote would begin “as soon as possible,” but no later than the second Monday before the election, leaving possibly only five working days and no weekend days of early voting. Voters would also have less time to request a ballot.
No new voters could be registered in the period before a run-off, as the registration deadline would be the day before the earlier election.
Protesters opposing changes to Georgia’s voting laws sit on the steps of the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia, while the legislature pauses for lunch in Atlanta on Monday, March 8, 2021.
Opponents promise to keep fighting the new laws
Three groups filed a lawsuit late on Thursday to try to block the law. The New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter and Rise Inc. say the law violates the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as parts of the federal Voting Rights Act that say states cannot restrict black voter participation.
These unjustified measures will work separately and cumulatively to impose unconstitutional burdens on the right to vote, to deny or curtail the voting rights of black Georgians, and to deny black voters in Georgia an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process. and candidates to choose their choice, ”said the lawsuit, which is being filed against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and the Georgian State Electoral Council.
Opponents are also looking to Congress, which is considering national voting standards. A Democrat-backed measure passed by the House earlier this month, but faces opposition from Senate Republicans wary of a federal takeover of state elections.
The federal proposal would create automatic voter registration nationwide, allow former criminals to vote, and limit the ways states can remove registered voters from their lists. It would expand postal voting, promote early voting, and give states money to track down absentee ballots.