ELLIJAY, Ga – Speaker of the House David Ralston (R – 7) tried to clear up the misconceptions surrounding SB 202, the Election Integrity Act of 2021.
Signed into law last week by Governor Brian Kemp, SB 202 has been the center of partisan attacks from Democrats calling it “Jim Crow in a suit and tie.” Ralston called the rhetoric surrounding SB 202 “extremely unfortunate” and “deceptions from those interested in gaining power.”
He explained that until SB 202 Georgia law didn’t have a provision for Sunday voting. With two optional Sunday voting days, counties can decide if they want to open the polls or not on Sundays. Before some counties hosted Sunday voting, but now it’s regularized throughout the state.
Mandatory Saturday voting was expanded from one weekend to two. Now counties must open the polls for two Saturdays.
As for drop boxes, before the pandemic, the option to use a dropbox wasn’t available in Georgia. The state board of elections issued an emergency rule to institute dropboxes for those who were afraid of crowds or touching objects because of COVID-19. Some counties only had one dropbox for everyone while others had multiple boxes in multiple locations. SB 202 limits the number of dropboxes and moves them inside to provide more security.
The run-off election time frame is condensed to four weeks instead of nine weeks. Ralston also reminded Georgians that not long ago run-offs only took place three weeks after the primary or general elections. A federal court case expanded the time frame to nine weeks, so the General Assembly compromised between three and nine weeks with four weeks.
Speaker of the House also addressed the highly publicized water and food issue. Anyone 150 feet or further back from the poll location can give people water or food. Once a voter passes the 150 feet marker, poll workers can provide food or water. In existing Georgia law, it states that people can’t campaign within 150 feet of a polling location, which is why many people see signs up to a certain point at polling locations.
No excuse absentee ballots are still available to everyone in Georgia, and a free state-issued ID will be available to those who need one. Also, if someone wants to vote absentee but can’t make a photocopy of their ID, they can write in their ID number in the designated spot.
“Legislative sessions are about doing the work of the people, not perpetuating or trying to gain power by another party,” Ralston stated.
Additionally, SB 202 adjusts the number of machines within a district to match the number of registered voters. If a district has more voters, then it will receive more machines.
Poll workers will receive more training, and counties can request assistance from poll workers in adjacent counties if needed.
ATLANTA – Election reform is coming to Georgia after Governor Brian Kemp (R) signed the SB 202, Election Integrity Act of 2021, mere hours after it landed on his desk.
During his televised remarks about the legislation Kemp stated, “With Senate Bill 202, Georgia will take another step in ensuring elections, accessible and fair.”
He thanked Chairman Barry Flemming and Chairman Max Burns and Senate and House Leadership for their work on the issue.
Kemp also mentioned his fight to keep Georgia’s elections fair by investigating voter fraud and defending the state’s voter ID laws.
“After November I knew like so many of you that significant reforms to our state elections were needed. There’s no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled and those problems understandable led to the crisis of confidence at the ballot box here in Georgia,” Kemp said.
Kemp was the first to call on Raffensperger to audit the absentee ballots and did so four times.
SB 202 replaces signature match with a state-issued ID requirement and Kemp believes this will streamline the absentee ballot process. He added the bill makes it “easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
Weekend voting will be expanded to two mandatory Saturdays and two optional Sundays. Ballot drop boxes will be secured 24/7 and security paper is required for ballot authentication.
“November 2020 election saw a 350 percent increase in the use of absentee ballots,” Kemp explained. “This obviously led local election workers to have to process far more ballots using a time consuming, labor-intensive, and at times arbitrary process.”
Georgia Democrats have been vocal about their opposition to the bill, calling it a power grab for a declining party that doesn’t know how to connect with a changing Georgia.
Election Integrity Act of 2021 does limit the power of the Secretary of State, removing the elected official as chairman of the state board of elections. The Secretary of State will now be a “nonvoting ex officio member” and the legislature will appoint the chairman. The state board can now oversee and review the performance of local election boards too. If a board is found lacking, the state board can appoint a new supervisor for that county.
The 90-plus page bill can be read on the General Assembly site.
President Joe Biden (D) spoke about the election reform legislation sweeping Republican-controlled state legislatures. He called the bills “sick” saying it made “Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle.” He promised to do everything in his power to stop the reform efforts.
Other states with election bills in process are Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.