A massive voting bill that would significantly overhaul Georgia’s election system moved a step closer to becoming reality Monday.
The Republican-sponsored HB 531 passed the House 97-72, despite staunch opposition from critics who say it will make it much harder for Georgians to vote. The bill now heads to the Georgia Senate where proposals to end no-excuse absentee voting and automatic voter registration have been introduced. The House spent more than two hours Monday debating the bill.
State Republicans have been on a legislative tear this session, introducing more than 50 election-related bills in both chambers combined. They say the bills are designed to restore confidence in the electoral system that they say was fraught with baseless claims of fraud.
“We want to make the ease of voting absolutely something that’s efficient and effective,” Rep. Todd Jones, a Republican from Cumming, said on the House floor Monday. “At the same time, we want to make ourselves secure. We want to give confidence to the voters that we do in fact have that.”
Democrats say it’s merely payback for Republicans losing the 2020 presidential election and the two senate runoff races.
“Today I rise in opposition to HB 531 because it was predicated on a big, fat lie by the former, twice-impeached president who insisted that there was fraud in the 2020 election simply because he lost,” Rep. Donna McLeod, a Democrat from Lawrenceville, said on the House floor. “What’s worse is my Republican colleagues don’t have the guts to tell the cult-like followers the truth that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were fairly elected. Suppressing the vote proves one thing. That my Republican colleagues are fearful. They’re afraid of change. They’re afraid they lack ideas and the policies to persuade the vast majority of people who might not look like them to vote for them. The greatest failure of this bill is it shows a disregard for our shared humanity because you believe you have to take something from me in order to show you have power. Making a decision on fear and lies is not a winning combination It gives temporary satisfaction.”
Here’s what’s in HB 531:
- Limits Sunday voting to one optional Sunday.
- Requires ballot drop boxes to be inside early voting facilities.
- Need driver’s license or state ID number or copy of your photo ID to vote absentee.
- The deadline to request absentee ballots is 11 days before election day.
- Provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct are disqualified.
- No outside funding of elections from nonprofit groups.
- Bans governments from mailing unsolicited absentee ballot applications.
- Runoffs will be four weeks after election day instead of nine weeks.
- No food or drinks for voters waiting in line to vote.
- Early voting buses will only be used in emergencies.
If you want to get involved, you can contact your legislator here
(Header Image: Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem) introduced HB531 directly into the Special Committee on Election Integrity on Thursday. On Monday, March 1, 2021, the HB 531 passed the house. Image via Georgia House of Representatives Live Feed.)