Gabrielle Canon here, signing on from the west coast for the afternoon. Before I jump in, here’s an important update from my colleague Sam Levine:
The Georgia house of representatives passed a major bill with new sweeping voting restrictions on Monday that limits ballot drop boxes and early voting, and requires voters to provide identification information when they vote by mail.
The measure, which passed on a party line vote of 97-72, comes months after the state saw record turnout that helped Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win stunning upsets in two US Senate races and Joe Biden carry the presidential vote. The measure, one of several that would restrict voting in Georgia, is a thinly veiled effort to make it harder to cast a ballot for minority voters, voting advocates say.
One of the most notable provisions in the law would cut back significantly on the amount of weekend early voting in the state.
It would allow county officials to offer just one additional day of weekend early voting in addition to the one on Saturday that’s required by law. Counties can currently offer up to four days of early voting and many have noted that Sundays ahead of an election are traditionally popular dates for early voting among Black voters as churches use “Souls to the Polls” efforts to encourage voters to cast a ballot. It would also require election officials to reject provisional ballots entirely that are cast in the wrong precinct and shorten the runoff election period from nine weeks until just four.
The measure also shortens the window voters have to cast an absentee ballot and requires them to present ID information when they request a ballot and when they turn it in. The measure also places new limits on ballot drop boxes, restricting where election officials can place them and the hours they can be accessible to the public.
During a two hour debate on Monday, Barry Fleming, the bill’s sponsor, and fellow Republicans defended the measure as commonsense changes needed to restore confidence in elections. State officials, including Georgia’s top election official, a Republican, have said repeatedly there was no evidence of fraud.
“House Bill 531 is designed to bring back the confidence of our voters back into our election system. A main component of that effort is by enacting several revisions which will make the administration of elections easier by our local election officials,” Fleming said.
The legislation would only allow officials to have ballot drop boxes inside early voting locations and only operational during early voting hours.
Several Republicans also pointed for the need to have uniform election processes across the state.
But several Democrats said that was weak justification for a measure that would make it harder to vote. They noted that the current bill leaves room for neighboring counties to offer different weekend early voting days, which was likely to cause confusion.
“It’s pathetically obvious to anyone paying attention that when Trump lost the November election and Georgia flipped control of the US Senate to Democrats – shortly after, Republicans got the message that they were in a political death spiral,” said state representative Renitta Shannon, a Democrat. “And now they’re doing anything they can to silence the voices of black and brown voters specifically because they largely powered these wins.”
The bill now moves to the Georgia senate.