Georgia election rules undergo revisions by Republican state lawmakers ahead of the 2024 campaign season

A table is adorned with a roll of stickers as individuals cast their votes during the Georgia primary in 2022. In response to persisting doubts surrounding the security of election administration, Georgia GOP lawmakers have implemented modifications to the state’s election regulations for this election season.

The upcoming 2024 election season is expected to bring attention to the ongoing debate surrounding voter eligibility in Georgia. This could potentially lead to the implementation of new regulations that will shape future elections in the state.

Last week, the Georgia Legislature, dominated by Republicans, approved a range of election rules that would bring significant changes to the voting process. These rules include alterations in vote counting methods, the implementation of new measures to enhance ballot security, and the establishment of clear criteria for challenging voter eligibility, which has been a contentious issue since the 2020 presidential election.

In the upcoming November 5 election, as Georgia voters head to the polls for a highly anticipated rematch between President Joe Biden and the leading contender for the GOP nomination, Donald Trump, they may encounter a couple of potential issues. One is the chance that they might notice a watermark on their paper ballot, and the other is the risk of facing mass voter challenges.

Lawmakers in the state voted along party lines on the last day of the legislative session to approve Senate Bill 189. Republicans argue that this bill will strengthen the 2021 election law reforms, which were intended to restore voter trust in elections and increase safeguards against cheating.

Republican Governor Brian Kemp is expected to sign SB 189 into law. However, if he chooses not to, it will automatically take effect on July 1st, unless he exercises his veto power.

The introduction of several new voting rules has sparked a renewed debate on whether they will enhance voters’ trust or are merely a response to appease Trump supporters who believe in the former president’s allegations of widespread election fraud as the reason for his loss. Extensive recounts and audits following the 2020 election have consistently affirmed that it was not compromised by widespread fraud.

Critics of mass challenges argue that certain organizations are exploiting election laws by accusing Democratic-leaning counties of having numerous ineligible voters on their rolls. They claim that hundreds of thousands of Georgia voters will face unjustified scrutiny regarding their voting eligibility in the upcoming 2024 election.

According to Atlanta Democratic Representative Saira Draper, the bill boosts the credibility of individuals known as election deniers who persist in spreading baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud in Georgia.

According to Draper, the bill will impose additional challenges on election officials as they strive to examine individual cases, inform voters who are being questioned, and conduct hearings on disqualifications.

Draper expressed disbelief at the justification of hasty and careless policy decisions under the guise of restoring confidence in elections. He pointed out that there will always be a vocal minority who will remain skeptical as long as their preferred candidate does not emerge as the winner.

The 2021 election law overhaul was passed by the Republican majority Legislature in response to the controversial presidential election of 2020. During that election, former President Trump and his supporters filed unsuccessful legal challenges, alleging widespread fraud. Georgia, a swing state, saw Democratic nominee Biden emerge as the narrow winner, securing victory by a margin of nearly 12,000 votes.

When a voter registers in a different jurisdiction, lists a nonresidential address like a post office box, or obtains a homestead exemption in a different county, a local registrar has the authority to uphold an eligibility challenge.

According to the legislation, it is not enough to question a voter’s registration based solely on the U.S. Postal Service database. There must be additional evidence to support a different address than the one they are registered at. The bill also specifies that having a post office box or a private mailbox service address listed on their voter registration is not considered enough to confirm their eligibility.

According to Rep. John LaHood, a Valdosta Republican, the proposed changes to the election processes will enhance voter confidence and increase participation in upcoming elections.

LaHood expressed astonishment at the notion that anyone in the chamber would condone a fraudulent vote that nullifies the significance of one’s legitimate vote.

The new election law offers safeguards for military personnel and college students against residency challenges. Additionally, any filings made within 45 days of the election will not be taken into consideration until after the election.

According to Representative Victor Anderson, a Republican from Cornelia, the bill effectively outlines the criteria for determining whether a voter challenge has sufficient evidence to proceed or not.

According to Draper, she is of the opinion that the current law effectively maintains a fair equilibrium between protecting the voting rights of Georgians and eliminating individuals who are no longer eligible to vote.

Local election officials are currently notified when a registered voter passes away, gets convicted of a felony, or registers to vote in a different jurisdiction.

Last year, the secretary of state undertook a statewide maintenance effort, resulting in the removal of approximately 500,000 inactive Georgia voters.

Draper dismissed the notion that an ordinary person would take it upon themselves to produce a list of voter challenges in order to maintain the integrity of the voter rolls. According to him, this idea is absurd and the real intention behind such actions is to sow confusion and disorder rather than ensuring the accuracy of the rolls.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has declared that it will file a lawsuit against the state if the governor signs the legislation into law and the provision on mass voter challenges is put into effect.

House Speaker Jon Burns, a Republican from Newington, expressed his belief that the modifications made to Georgia’s voting code during the 2024 session will further instill trust in the state’s electoral system.

According to Burns, Chairman LaHood and Chairman Max Burns in the Senate have been working diligently over the summer to explore alternatives that would ensure our elections are conducted efficiently and effectively.

According to Anne Gray Herring, a policy analyst from Common Cause Georgia, if the criteria for mass voter challenges are expanded, it will only result in more disputes.

According to Herring, the election bills being proposed in Georgia do not provide any assistance to the voters. On the contrary, they impose additional burdens on a voting system that is already safe and secure. Herring argues that these bills, far from making voting easier, will actually make it more difficult to vote in Georgia.

New ballot features looming

A less controversial change being discussed involves the addition of a visible watermark on ballots. This proposed security measure aims to enhance the authenticity of the ballots.

Georgia’s use of QR codes and other electronic voting technology has been a contentious issue, with election security advocates calling for a switch to a paper ballot system. The Coalition for Good Governance has filed a federal lawsuit, arguing that the state’s electronic voting machines present a significant security risk. A ruling on the case is expected in the coming weeks, awaiting the decision of a federal court judge.

Georgia may soon replace its problematic computer QR coding with a more user-friendly system of easy-to-read text on ballots. This new system, slated to be implemented in 2026, will enable votes to be tabulated accurately and allow voters to easily confirm their choices. As part of this initiative, the secretary of state is mandated to develop a pilot program for the upcoming Nov. 5 election, which will utilize clearly legible text to audit every ballot cast.

Poll watchers’ access is expanded by the bill, allowing them to closely observe local election administration without accessing confidential information.

In Georgia, the law states that a poll watcher is responsible for observing an election on behalf of an independent or nonpartisan candidate, a political party, or a political body. Additionally, the legislation permits independent presidential candidates to be included on Georgia ballots if they are also listed on ballots in a minimum of 20 other states.

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