On Thursday evening (March 25), Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a sweeping elections law, imposing restrictions and new rules across the state. Voting rights advocates have long decried the legislation which was first proposed following the November 2020 election. Georgia was a battleground in the presidential election and saw a historic flip after Donald Trump lost by 11,779 votes.
Georgia’s latest law is not the only one of its kind. More than 250 laws have been proposed in dozens of states across the US following record voter turnout in the November election.
Here are five takeaways from what Georgia's law, SB 202, actually does.
Absentee Voters Are Required To Present ID
Under SB 202, people wishing to vote absentee are now required to present a driver’s license or state ID card in order to request and turn in an absentee ballot.
Before the law was passed, election workers used a signature-matching method to verify absentee ballots belonged to a voter. The Hill reported this method left many ballots, even legally-cast ones, uncounted because of differences in signatures.
Requiring ID to vote absentee, activists say will make absentee voting more difficult especially for low-income voters, Black voters, and other marginalized groups.
Ballot Drop Box Use Is Limited
To make voting safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, Georgia implemented the use of ballot drop boxes where voters could conveniently turn in their ballots. Though the new law still keeps the drop boxes legal, it restricts the use of them. Under the new law, ballot drop boxes are required to be inside of polling locations and only available during voting hours, removing their convenience for voters who work longer than polling locations are open.
Ballot drop boxes also won’t be an option during the last four days of an election, when mailing ballots could be risky if mail is delayed.
More Control Given to State Lawmakers In Elections
In an election, the State Election Board will have the authority to temporarily suspend local election officials it determines need to be reviewed. The Secretary of State of Georgia will no longer be the chair of the state election board.
The move comes after current Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger refused to “find” Trump enough votes to claim victory in the state.
Weekend Early Voting Expanded, Absentee Ballot Request Deadline Cut
In Georgia, voters who wish to vote by absentee ballot have to submit an application to get the ballot, while other states just send the ballot to all eligible voters. Georgia voters who want an absentee ballot will have to request it at least 11 days before an election date. Voters used to be able to request an absentee ballot up to four days before an election.
Lawmakers expanded weekend voting options, requiring two early in-person voting dates on Saturdays. Counties can also choose to have early voting on two Sundays.
The law requires three weeks of early in-person voting and calls for polling sites to be open for a minimum of eight hours and up to 12 hours.
You Can Be Charged With A Misdemeanor For Feeding Voters In Line
Under SB 202, volunteers can face a misdemeanor for feeding people waiting in line to vote. In a state that has notoriously had hours-long lines for voting, this new law takes away a seemingly helpful resource for people.
It is unclear how this part of the new law would aid in efforts to decrease or prevent voter fraud.
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