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Georgia Republicans Propose House Bill 531 to Add New Restrictions to State Voting Laws

48-page House Bill 531 was introduced on Thursday, February 18, and was sponsored by only Republican representatives in Georgia’s state house. 

These sponsors claim that their primary intention in passing HB531 was to restore voters’ faith in elections, seeing as approximately 40% of Georgia voters report that they believe that there was some degree of fraud in the 2020 presidential election cycle. This number rose to 75% when only considering Republican constituents. 

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has repeatedly asserted that, despite the intense accusations that have been made against Georgia’s election integrity by leaders in his own party, there was no evidence of widespread fraudulent voting during the 2020 election cycle. 

The provisional amendments to current Georgian election legislation are due to have the following effects:

  • Proposed amendments to Chapter 2 of Title 2, Code Sections 21-2-71 and 2-2-212 will forbid counties’ superintendents of elections from accepting any “funding, grants, or gifts” to aid in conducting the election from any non-government entity. Critics of this bill are of the opinion that this provision was created in direct response to the millions of dollars that philanthropic organizations poured into counties across the state to assist in their ability to run an effective election during the pandemic. Most of these donations were centered around counties with high minority populations.
  • Proposed amendments to subsection (a) of Code Section 21-2-92 will allow county officials to hire poll workers belonging to adjacent counties instead of only permitting election poll workers to serve if they reside in the county in which they are serving. This is designed to alleviate many counties’ need for more poll officers. 
  • Proposed amendments to Code Section 21-2-263 will require that:
    • (a)  if a precinct serves more than 2,000 active voters and that large constituency led to wait times of one hour or more during the most recent election, officials must split up or alter that precinct’s constituency to alleviate this burden on voters. Such alterations must be reported at least 60 days prior to the start of early voting. 
    • (b) voting buses and other mobile voting facilities are only permissibly used during emergency circumstances during elections.  Critics say that this provision is in direct response to the popularity of voting buses in Fulton County.
  • Proposed amendments to subsection (b) of Code Sections 21-2-367 and 21-2-379.25 will require that:
    • a county superintendent has the ability to decrease the amount of voting enclosures offered if they feel that the expected turnout requires less than their allotted amount. 
    • the superintendent of each municipality will publish a notice of voting machine testing to the homepage of the county website, in the primarily circulating county newspaper, and on the secretary of state’s website. 
  • Proposed amendments to Code Section 21-2-372 will mandate that all ballots be printed on authenticatable security paper.
  • Proposed amendments to Code Section 21-2-219 propose several changes regarding the eligibility of absentee ballots:
    • Mandates that absentee ballots be received no earlier than 78 days prior to election day, and no later than 11 days prior to election day in order to be counted
    • Required that a copy of an official form of identification be required as a part of absentee ballot applications. Said applications will also include an oath that the voter must sign acknowledging that all provided information is correct.
    • No absentee ballot will be sent by the government to voters unless directly requested by said voter
    • Only relatives may request absentee ballots on behalf of another voter, along with those assisting disabled voters
    • Any absentee ballot application sent by a 3rd party organization to any voter will use the form that will be provided by the Secretary of State’s office, will not be pre-filled in any capacity. Voters must also be clearly notified that these applications have not been sent by a government entity, that the application is not a ballot, and that completion of the application is not necessary to vote. All of these things must be printed in large, obvious writing. 
  • Proposed amendments to Code Section 21-2-382 proposes several changes to the management of absentee ballot drop boxes:
    • Absentee ballot drop boxes must be located inside advance voting locations, and will only be accessible while the advance voting location is open. 
    • The drop box shall be labeled “OFFICIAL ABSENTEE DROP BOX” and will be emptied and ballots submitted at the close of voting each day.
  • Proposed amendments to Code Section 21-2-384 make changes to the methods through which absentee ballots are sent and transmitted. Military ballots will now only be sent automatically for federal elections since federal law mandates that they are delivered. Hospitalized voters also have more stringent requirements.

Did you know that the public can attend Board of Registration and Elections meetings? 

These meetings are open to the public by Georgia law. Georgia Open Meetings Act.

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