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 – Shortly after passing the House of Representatives earlier today, the Senate voted to approve the House’s amendments to SB 202, also known as the Election Integrity Act.
The House passed SB 202 with a 100-75 vote. The Senate approved the amendment 34-20.
Kemp intends to sign the bill tonight at 6:30 p.m. Following the signing of the bill, Governor Kemp will deliver remarks from the Governor’s Ceremonial Office. The remarks will be broadcast live on GPB.org.
The Election Integrity Act will bring sweeping changes to the election process in Georgia. Drop boxes will only be allowed to be placed inside early voting locations during voting hours. Food or drink stations must be set up 150 feet away from polling locations in accordance with existing campaigning laws. If someone breaks those rules, they can be charged with a misdemeanor. Unlimited challenges for voter eligibility and registration.
State elections board gains more power in the bill as well with the legislature now appointing the chairman. Previously, the Secretary of State served as the chairman, but under SB 202, the Secretary of State would assume a more administrative role. The state board can also review local boards of elections when needed and if necessary appoint one person to replace the board.
Several Senate Democrats argued extending a hand of control over local boards was just a grab for power by Republicans who are unsure how to win in a changing Georgia.
Runoff elections would move from nine weeks after the primary to four weeks.
Secretary of State and state elections board would inform the legislature before entering into any agreements, settlements, or consent orders.
Two days of Saturday voting and Sunday voting will be implemented as well.
The 90-plus page bill details all the changes to O.C.G.A. Those interested can read it on the General Assembly’s site.