Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

Georgia legislature passes broad elections bill with 2024 implications

By 37ci3 Mar29,2024

Georgia’s GOP-controlled Legislature on Thursday passed a sweeping ballot measure that would expand the ability of candidates to run in the state’s presidential primary and expand voter disenfranchisement.

Passed the House and Senate Senate Bill 189, combining several previously separate election bills to send it to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk. It was passed after the state’s two-year legislative session ended Friday.

The legislation could have immediate implications for the crucial battleground state of the 2024 presidential election.

Under the bill, any political party or political entity can participate in the presidential election if it has access to the ballot in at least 20 states or territories.

A new provision may help independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., is seeking to appear on the ballot in all 50 states this November. It has so far collected enough signatures to qualify for several ballots, including in Hawaii, Nevada, New Hampshire and Utah.

All people who become homeless in Georgia will also have to redo their voter registrations under the law, as a provision in the bill requires those without a permanent address to register at the county registrar’s office in which they live. Registered voters who previously did not have a permanent address registered at shelters or government offices, including courts.

The bill also includes provisions that could make it easier for amateur voter fraud hunters to successfully challenge the registration of other voters, listing the details that would justify the “probable cause” needed to respond to such a subpoena.

Probable cause may now include registration of a voter at a non-residential address verified or listed by a government office, database, website, or public sources available only from such government sources. A voter’s appearance in the USPS’ change-of-address database is not the only evidence of a voter’s ineligibility, the law notes, but it can be used to substantiate a challenge.

In 2021, Georgia lawmakers encouraged amateur voter fraud hunters by writing into the election code that residents could make an unlimited number of calls. Since then, there have been a handful of individuals tens of thousands protested voter registration, harassed the election officials with the investigation. A man created a database, Eagle AIamateur fraud hunters examine voter rolls and look for potential ineligible voters, such as people registered in non-residential buildings.

America’s voter rolls are designed for registration, not deletion, which means they can often include outdated voter registrations. Election officials also have years-long procedures for deleting outdated voter registrations. While there is no evidence that bloated voter rolls lead to fraud, officials and election experts warn that amateur fraud hunters may use discriminatory strategies to seek out voters, or that inaccurate information or write-in lines may exclude eligible voters from the rolls.

“These mass voters are repeatedly trying to disproportionately push Black and Brown voters off the rolls. They have long been a strategy to have a chilling effect on the vote,” said Fair Fight Action Interim Executive Director Lauren Groh-Wargo.

Republicans, he said, “are looking for an opportunity to shave off the votes of people who might vote Democratic.”

State Representative Al Williams, a Democrat, said the bill was designed to suppress voters of color and was part of the “foolishness” he fought against during the Civil Rights Movement.

“It’s just the old playbook of a nationally coordinated right-wing effort to make ballot access impossible,” he said.

Republicans defended the bill in the legislature, arguing it would improve voter rolls.

Republican state representative John LaHood said the bill improves confidence in elections.

“What this bill does is ensure that your legal voice counts,” he said.

Lawmakers have also floated proposals that would remove the secretary of state from Georgia’s board of elections, ban QR codes on voters’ ballots in future elections and require out-of-state votes to be reported an hour after the polls close.

The ACLU said in a statement Friday that it “strongly opposes this bill” and will sue the governor if he signs the measure into law.

“Ballot access is at the heart of our democracy,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia. “This election violates the ‘Frankenbill’ National Voter Registration Act. We are committed to protecting Georgia voters. If the governor signs this bill into law, we will see it in court.”

Georgia Republicans sought to adopt new election rules after former President Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

Trump and his supporters have repeatedly blamed voter fraud for his loss. Their attempts to protest the results of the elections in Georgia led to a criminal case against him and more than a dozen other defendants.

Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis last year charged Trump and his co-defendants with violating Georgia’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization) statute.

A trial date has not yet been set, although Willis has indicated he is interested in an August start date.

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By 37ci3

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