ATLANTA – U.S. Department of Justice is suing Georgia concerning the Election Integrity Act on the basis it infringes on civil rights.
Democrats have widely derided the controversial law as racist and designed to limit minority voting in Georgia. President Joe Biden (D – Delaware) even called the bill “Jim Eagle” in comparison to Jim Crow laws.
The law expands early voting in the state and puts in place a state-verified ID requirement. No excuse absentee voting is still a part of Georgia Law.
Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston (R – Blue Ridge) has issued the following statement:
“Today’s lawsuit is partisan pageantry at taxpayer expense. Meant to distract from the Biden Administration’s failure to pass its election legislation, which had many similar requirements to SB 202 such as voter ID, this lawsuit only serves to needlessly divide our country and provide a Democratic Party fundraising opportunity.
“Georgia’s Election Integrity Act makes voting more accessible and secure. We will vigorously defend our system of free and fair elections. It is shocking and sad that the Biden Administration would stoop to push a political power grab which would repeal voter ID and strikes at the very heart of our system of federalism.”
The law also prohibits campaigns from handing out food or water within 150 feet of a polling place in line with previous election laws concerning campaigning around polling places. The move was intended to give voters privacy before entering a voting booth. Polling places can still provide water to voters in line.
The run-off period was shortened from nine weeks to four weeks. Additionally, rules pertaining to drop boxes were put into place. Previously, Georgia election law didn’t account for drop boxes and the receptacles only came into place due to the pandemic. Going forward, the number of boxes will be limited and must be inside a facility.
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 United States’ complaint challenges several provisions of Senate Bill 202, including a provision banning government entities from distributing unsolicited absentee ballot applications; the imposition of costly and onerous fines on civic organizations, churches and advocacy groups that distribute follow-up absentee ballot applications; the shortening of the deadline to request absentee ballots to 11 days before Election Day; the requirement that voters who do not have identification issued by the Georgia Department of Driver Services photocopy another form of identification in order to request an absentee ballot without allowing for use of the last four digits of a social security number for such applications; significant limitations on counties’ use of absentee ballot drop boxes; the prohibition on efforts by churches and civic groups to provide food or water to persons waiting in long lines to vote; and the prohibition on counting out-of-precinct provisional ballots cast before 5 p.m. on Election Day. The complaint asks the court to prohibit Georgia from enforcing these requirements.
Current Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R – Ga) was one of several elected officials in Georgia pushing back the hardest against former President Donald Trump’s election fraud claims. He’s insisted the election was fair and honest. His office also instructed three recounts which failed to uncover any massive voter fraud.
Attorney General Merrick Garland stated earlier this year that his department was looking into states’ new voting laws and post-election audits. He also doubled the number of people in the Civil Rights Division looking into voting rights.
“The right of all eligible citizens to vote is the central pillar of our democracy, the right from which all other rights ultimately flow,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland “This lawsuit is the first step of many we are taking to ensure that all eligible voters can cast a vote; that all lawful votes are counted; and that every voter has access to accurate information.”
ATLANTA – Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones (R-Milton) and the leadership of the House Majority Caucus issue the following statement in support of Israel:
“In the last two days, more than 1,000 rockets have been fired at innocent men, women and children in Israel. The Israeli people are being attacked by Hamas terrorists bent on killing as many civilians as possible. It is appalling, and it must end.
“We send our love and prayers to our friends in Israel — a nation that remains one of the most loyal and important allies the United States has ever known. May God protect them and keep them safe.
“We call on the White House to denounce these barbaric acts of terrorism and to rally the peace-loving nations of the world in defense of Israel and its people.”
The House Majority Caucus leadership team includes Majority Leader Jon Burns (R-Newington), Majority Caucus Chairman Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin), Majority Whip Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), Majority Caucus Vice Chairman Micah Gravley (R-Douglasville) and Majority Caucus Secretary-Treasurer Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe).
ATLANTA – Today, Speaker of the House David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) proposed that State ID cards through the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) be free to all eligible Georgians. Currently, DDS assesses a $32 fee for State ID cards. Similar in form to driver’s licenses, State ID cards are compliant with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s REAL ID standard and may be used for voter identification among other purposes. Georgia already offers a free voter photo identification, but that document may only be used for voting.
“I am committed to eliminating barriers to voting for all legally eligible Georgians,” said Speaker David Ralston. “We have heard from Georgians who are concerned about fees associated with obtaining a voter identification. While Georgia already offers a free voter ID, this State ID card is more useful and will make it easier for Georgians to not only vote, but use the ID to open a checking account or show identification to a TSA agent at an airport. Ultimately, we want to make getting a government-issued photo ID as easy as possible and removing this fee is one more way to demonstrate our commitment that everyone has the tools necessary to vote in Georgia. I look forward to working with Governor Kemp, Lt. Governor Duncan, and my colleagues in the General Assembly to keep Georgia’s elections accessible and secure.”
State ID cards are one of many types of identification cards and licenses obtained through the Georgia Department of Driver Services. You can learn more about obtaining a State ID card through the DDS website at https://dds.georgia.gov/how-do-i-id-card.
ATLANTA, Ga. – House members assigned to the Special Committee on Election Integrity currently have a full plate as they sort through numerous bills with more expected to drop.
Before the session, Speaker David Ralston (R – Blue Ridge) expressed the importance of a committee dedicated to tackling voter confidence after the divisive Presidential and Senate elections of 2020 and 2021.
“Many Georgians are concerned about the integrity of our election system. Some of those concerns may or may not be well-founded, but there may be others that are,” said Ralston while speaking at a Chamber of Commerce event.
With a lot riding on the hot button issue, Ralston tapped fellow Republican and lawyer Rep. Barry Fleming (R – Harlem) as Chairman to the Special Committee on Election Integrity.
“I am excited and humbled that Speaker Ralston and the Committee on Assignments has entrusted me with this committee chairmanship on such a vital issue,” Fleming said in a press release.
As of February 4, 14 different pieces of legislation have been sent to the committee for review. On the Senate side, Members of the Senate Ethics Committee are dealing with another 17 election-related bills.
Only one bill, HB 59, carries bipartisan support. In summary, the legislation would create an instant runoff election, also known as a ranked-choice system for military and overseas voters. HB 59 is authored by Rep. Wes Cantrell (R – Woodstock). Also, Rep. Health Clark (R – Warner Robins) and Bonnie Rich (R – Suwanee), have co-sponsored the legislation.
Rep. Bee Nguyen (D – Atlanta), one of three Democrats to co-sponsor the bill, stated, “The bipartisan bill on rank-choice voting is a step in the right direction and would reduce the cost of running elections in the state of Georgia.”
A cautious Ralston previously commented that he would need a “real strong case to convince him” of anything that would challenge Georgia’s no-excuse absentee voting system.
So far, similar legislation has fallen along partisan lines. After social media giant Mark Zuckerberg donated 400 million dollars in the 2020 election cycle, Republican lawmakers have vowed to put an end to private funding aimed at what conservatives feel unfairly influences elections. 42 Georgia counties received private grant money last year. Authored by Rep. Joseph Gullett (R – Dallas), HB 62 would bar local elections officials from accepting private funds. HB 62 currently has five co-sponsors.
One of the more bold pieces of legislation doesn’t come from the House, but rather the Senate. Proposed by Sen. Gloria Butler (D – Stone Mountain), SB 37 calls to replace the electoral college with a National Popular Vote. So far, Butler’s bill has 15 other so-sponsors. 15 states plus the District of Columbia have signed on to similar legislation.
While Republicans still hold to a majority at the state level, 2020 marked the year of the Democrat for Georga after it swung for Joe Biden (D), then Senators Raphael Warnock (D) and Jon Ossoff (D) took their runoffs. Republicans’ legislative action must prove that future elections aren’t lost after 75,000 voters didn’t show for the January run-off.
ATLANTA, Ga – Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston announced intentions to change the way Georgia selects a Secretary of State. He favors placing the power with the legislature.
Ralston will ask the Governmental Affairs Committee to craft a constitutional amendment that changes the Secretary of State to an appointed position. The bill would need to be passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor. Currently, Georgia citizens elect the Secretary of State.
“I think it’s time in Georgia that we look an alternative way of electing a Secretary of State. There’s more than one option as an alternative. Frankly, I like the option of having the General Assembly elect that individual for a set term,” Ralston commented.
The Secretaries of State of Tennessee, Maine, and New Hampshire are all elected by their respective state legislatures.
“I feel like it’s the only way to right this ship. I don’t do this lightly or disrespectfully to the incumbent who I have high personal regard for. I do this because we have a job to do as members of the house and members of the senate,” Ralston finished.
The move comes after several weeks of questions, concerns, and Republican in-fighting over the November 3 elections. One concern that several elected Republicans in Georgia take issue with is the consent decree signed by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Governor Brian Kemp without informing the General Assembly until afterward.
If the bill becomes law, a Secretary of State couldn’t enter into a consent decree without first consulting the legislature.
It would also remove power from the hands of the voter and place it with the General Assembly. Ralston argued that the people are feeling “excluded” by the Secretary of State’s Office.
If the bill passed the House and Senate, then it would land on the governor’s desk. Kemp has supported Raffensperger through much of the post-election disputes, aside from calling for future reforms. At this point, it’s unlikely he would sign the bill.
This isn’t the first time Ralston and Raffensberger didn’t see eye-to-eye. Before the June primary, Ralston expressed disapproval in the Secretary of State’s plan to send all Georgians an absentee ballot application. Some reports suggest that these applications carried over through the General Election.
The House’s Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing concerning election irregularities today. They invited the Secretary of State Raffensperger and team. Last night, the Secretary of State’s Office informed the committee that they declined to attend the hearing. The committee wanted to speak with the Secretary of State about potential improvements that could be made to the system. Ralston ensured that the Secretary of State knew it would be a “fact-finding” and “non-adversarial” meeting.
“I’m completely shocked. I’m disappointed. I don’t ever remember in my time serving in this Assembly, a Constitutional Officer refusing to come before a House or a Senate Committee to offer up information that might be helpful to the people’s representatives,” Ralston remarked. “The people of Georgia are wanting answers out of their representatives.”
He believed Georgia’s representatives are entitled to a question-and-answer session with the Secretary of State’s Office.
The Secretary of State’s Office did hold a 3 p.m. press conference to debunk more voter fraud claims.
“Today we have yet another example of a Constitutional Officer who has chosen to be on his own and disregard input from the people who he looks to for his budget and to consider legislative changes to his office,” Ralston added.
Video footage courtesy of 11Alive.