By Tammy Joyner
A new bill aimed at tightening Georgia’s absentee voting processes is drawing fire from critics who view it as nothing more than a smoke screen for voter suppression.
Senate Bill 29 calls for voters wanting to cast absentee ballots to make copies of their photo identification and mail them to election officials twice before being able to vote. Newly-elected Sen. Jason Anavitarte of Dallas, Ga., introduced the legislation on Wednesday. Anavitarte, the first Latino Republican in the state senate, represents District 31, which includes parts of Haralson, Paulding, and Polk counties.
At press time, Anavitarte had yet to respond to Atlanta Civic Circle’s requests for comment on the bill.
On Thursday, the head of the state ACLU strongly opposed the bill saying it was “an additional barrier” to voters, especially those without the technological means to make copies of their IDs.
“This bill ballot access for everyone without an electronic scanner/printer at home,” ACLU Executive Director Andrea Young said. “This is wrong.”
The legislation comes after a contentious election cycle in which large numbers of mail-in absentee votes helped put President Joe Biden in the White House and two Georgia Democratic senators in Congress. The election results drew vigorous outcries of voter fraud from former President Donald Trump and his allies. State election officials repeatedly have said there was no widespread irregularity involving absentee voting.
According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, more than 1.3 million Georgians cast absentee ballots in the 2020 presidential election due in part to the pandemic
Police and election investigators “didn’t find a single fraudulent absentee ballot” during an audit of more than 15,000 voter signatures, a report by the office concluded.
Meanwhile, one veteran Republican said Thursday that recent elections have created so much bi-partisan bickering and public mistrust that something must be done to “instill greater confidence in the voting process.”
“We need to be careful when wading into election law,” Chuck Clay, an attorney with the Atlanta law firm of Hall Booth & Smith, told Atlanta Civic Circle. Clay is a former six-term state senator and former chairman of the state Republican party. “In our zeal to protect elections, we’ve made it more complex and more susceptible to mistrust and technical glitches.”
He added that he’d like to see tighter controls over the absentee ballot process but not if it harms voters.
“If that (SB 29) is going to work a hardship that will truly deny access to voting for real Georgians then, no, it’s not a good idea,” Clay said. “I would prefer to look at it along the lines of if we have software that would compare the validity of signatures that’s a better way to approach it than a variety of IDs.”
Learn more about SB 29 and other legislation related to our democratic processes by clicking here.