If coverage over the last several years has taught us one thing about Georgia Republicans, it’s been that they have a tender spot for voter suppression. After losing several high-profile elections in 2020 and two crucial Senate runoff races earlier this month, Georgia Republicans have now turned their sights on trying to make absentee ballots use more difficult to cast.
If a recent proposal introduced in the state legislature goes into law, those who want to vote away from polling places will be required to first submit a copy of their ID with their applications for absentee ballots, and then do the same thing again when they return the actual ballot. Despite no evidence of problems or valid concerns with absentee ballots, Senate Bill (SB) 29 was introduced by a freshman Republican lawmaker.
Absentee voting was widely used by both sides of the aisle — because we’re in a pandemic! And now, voters are being punished because they wanted to stay safe?! Many Georgians don’t have printers/scanners/internet/smart phones— lots of older & rural voters. What a disgrace. https://t.co/OXSPNJPxgK
— Bee Nguyen 🐝 (@BeeForGeorgia) January 28, 2021
While celebrated as a national hero, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has signaled support for reducing the use of absentee ballots, including getting rid of no-excuse absentee ballots altogether. The secretary of state’s website for requesting a ballot has an assurance that the process is secure.
During the 2020 general and runoff elections, voters were required to provide their license or ID number when applying for an absentee ballot online. Voters who applied for an absentee ballot in writing or with the official form are required to sign the form. That signature, as well as the signature on the back of the absentee ballot envelope, is subject to verification as a safety measure.
Proponents of voter suppression attempted to pass a similar requirement of submitting voter ID with an absentee ballot and the application before the state legislature suspended its session last year. SB 463 was a fast-tracked bill that included a requirement for a photocopy of a person’s ID when applying to vote by absentee ballot.
Voting rights advocates raised concerns about people’s ability to get a copy of their ID. The mandate would require people to either have access to a printer or be able to get to a retail printing location. There was also the worry of identity theft from people sending copies of their IDs through the mail.
In a series of tweets, Fair Fight Action — the voting rights organization led by Stacey Abrams — challenged the proposed rule, pointing out that Republicans are attempting to change regulations they originally created because they no longer benefit.
THREAD: Republicans are trying to change the rules of GA elections – rules that they wrote – because they were humiliated on November 3 and again on January 5, and they know their only chance at winning future elections is to prevent eligible Georgians from casting their ballots.
— Fair Fight (@fairfightaction) January 27, 2021
Like their counterparts nationwide, Georgia Republicans have been fear-mongering about absentee ballots and expanded access to the ballot box, including early voting. Republican Speaker of the House David Ralston lamented the use of absentee ballots last spring and predicted that his party would have trouble winning elections if the practice continued.
Voter fraud is virtually nonexistent. And when it happens, authorities are quick to address the situation. But desperate for a way to keep power, Republicans insist on using the fear of fraud as a smokescreen for suppressing votes.
Anoa Changa is a movement journalist and retired attorney based in Atlanta, Georgia. Follow Anoa on Instagram and Twitter @thewaywithanoa.
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