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.
ATLANTA, Ga – Georgia Governor Brian Kemp maintained his hardline stance against calling a special session of the General Assembly.
In a joint statement, Kemp and Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan declared they would not bend to party pressures. They asserted that a special session to select presidential electors isn’t allowed under federal and state law.
Read the full statement from Kemp and Duncan:
“While we understand four members of the Georgia Senate are requesting the convening of a special session of the General Assembly, doing this in order to select a separate slate of presidential electors is not an option that is allowed under state or federal law.
“State law is clear: the legislature could only direct an alternative method for choosing presidential electors if the election was not able to be held on the date set by federal law. In the 1960s, the General Assembly decided that Georgia’s presidential electors will be determined by the winner of the state’s popular vote. Any attempt by the legislature to retroactively change that process for the November 3rd election would be unconstitutional and immediately enjoined by the courts, resulting in a long legal dispute and no short-term resolution.
“The judicial system remains the only viable – and quickest – option in disputing the results of the November 3rd election in Georgia.”
However, Kemp commended Georgia House of Representatives, Speaker David Ralston (R – Blue Ridge), and House Majority Leader Jon Burns (R-Newington) for proposing reforms to the election process. The governor’s also been a strong proponent for signature verification reforms.
I thank Leader Burns, Speaker Ralston, and members of the House for proposing necessary reforms that will help restore confidence in our elections. https://t.co/niD9UsBzSW
— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) December 5, 2020
In a letter to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) and State Elections Board, Burns and more than 100 House members suggested improvements to the absentee ballot application and envelope signature verification process.
“Many Georgians, including my colleagues who have signed this correspondence, have serious concerns about Georgia’s elections,” said Leader Burns. “As we approach a critical election on January 5, 2021, Georgia voters must have confidence in the election process going forward. To that end, my colleagues in the House and I have submitted two common-sense suggestions to help ensure secure elections on January 5. I thank Secretary Raffensperger and the State Election Board for considering these suggestions that would rebuild some of the trust that Georgians may have lost in our election process.”
The letter called for robust verification process reforms, such as allowing independent observers to witness signature reviews. They also proposed the Secretary of State’s office partner with other state agencies.
“Multiple news outlets reported significant failures in counties across our state before, during, and after Election Day,” added Leader Burns. “These counties were rural, suburban, and metro-area and represented all demographics and areas of our state. We hope these suggestions can help Georgians rest assured that each and every legal vote is counted here in Georgia.”
Last Thursday, Trump legal team presented a witness who contended Kemp could convene a special session for this purpose. However, the move would tie the state up in legal battles. Most alleged voter fraud evidence has been rebutted by the Secretary of State’s Office. Raffensperger also opened 250 voter fraud investigations last week but claimed there’s no evidence of systemic fraud. Since Georgia effectively moved to a paper ballot system, election officials can review paper records against the Dominion system.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger likened Trump’s tactics to Stacey Abrams (D).
He told the WSJ that the November election was “the most secure in history” and that election problems started long-before 2020. Calling out politicians and pundits who refuse to accept election results like Stacey Abrams, who “still refuses to acknowledge she lost,” Raffensperger pointed to a loss of confidence in the system.
Many Georgia GOP senators echoed a similar sentiment last Thursday during Oversight Committee and Special Judicial Subcommittee hearings. Constituents have expressed a loss of trust in the election process and an unwillingness to return to the polls.
“I’m going to try to build this statement based on a consensus of what I’m hearing from the people that I represent: We have totally lost confidence in our election system this year,” Senate Republican Whip Steve Gooch of Dahlonega said. “I’m here on behalf of those citizens. I have a duty to let you know that this issue isn’t going to go away unless we make some changes.”
Later this week, the Georgia House of Representatives will hold a Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on elections.