Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger warned this week that the blistering criticism Democrats are slinging at Georgia’s new voting law may be a cover for their objective of taking control of elections through sweeping election reform at the federal level.
Last month, Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed Georgia’s new voting law, a 98-page bill dubbed SB 202, prompting an immediate outcry from critics who declared the law “Jim Crow 2.0.” Democrats condemned the law as severely restricting voting access, especially for voters of color, while President Biden called the law an “atrocity” and said that his Justice Department is reviewing it.
“I believe at the end of the day, most things become very political,” Raffensperger said Wednesday in an interview with The Daily Wire.
Georgia’s secretary of state cautioned that a mammoth election reform bill recently passed by the House could be the impetus behind the vehement response from Democrats. House Democrats passed the For the People Act, otherwise known as HR-1, with zero Republican votes last month.
“I believe that nationally, Democrats want to use SB 202 here in Georgia as their justification for really taking over federal elections with HR-1,” Raffensperger said. “And so that’s really, I think, what’s going on at the end of the day.”
The nearly 800-page For the People Act, panned by Republicans as unconstitutional and an egregious overreach of federal involvement in elections, would overhaul federal election law on a massive scale. The law would ban state voter-ID laws and replace them with sworn voter statements. It would mandate automatic voter registration and require states to provide a ballot to everyone without asking for identification. The bill would also tighten restrictions around purging voter rolls and give former felons voting rights. States would be required to allow ballot harvesting as long as harvesters were not compensated per ballot, and curbside voting, ballot drop boxes, and 15 days of early voting would be required across the country under the For the People Act.
Twenty GOP state attorneys general argued in a letter to House and Senate leaders that the bill “would invert that constitutional structure, commandeer state resources, confuse and muddle elections procedures, and erode faith in our elections and systems of governance.”
The controversial legislation is considered dead on arrival in the Senate as it is virtually guaranteed not to garner a single Republican vote, let alone the 10 needed to break a filibuster.
Raffensperger also defended Georgia’s voting law and attempted to refute some of the criticisms of the bill, arguing that it actually expands voting access.
“First of all, we move away from signature match, which is a good thing,” he said, adding that neither party strongly supports ballot signature verification, which he said is “very subjective.”
Instead, the new voting law requires voters to present either their driver’s license, another form of state ID, their Social Security number, or a free voter identification card provided by the state of Georgia. A first-time absentee voter may also provide a copy of a utility bill, paycheck, government check, bank statement, or other government document showing their name and address.
“There’s nothing more objective than that, and we can do that very quickly and confidently and securely,” Raffensperger said of identifying voters by their driver’s licenses rather than through signature verification.
The law establishes a one-hour maximum wait time for voting lines or the precinct must be split up. It also guarantees that each county have at least one absentee ballot drop box, but it limits the number of drop boxes to one per early voting site or one per 100,000 active registered voters, whichever is fewer. Drop boxes were not used in Georgia before last year, when they were introduced in response to the pandemic.
The only part of the Georgia voting law Raffensperger said he is not on board with is the language that strips him of his chairmanship of the state elections board, a move he said was intended to target him personally, calling it “short-sighted” and “petulant.”
“I think it was a dumb move,” he said, pointing out that the state election board has been chaired by Georgia’s secretary of state since 1960.
“You now replace an elected official with an unelected person. Who will hold that unelected person accountable? Who do the voters call when they don’t like something? The 180 state representatives or the 56 state senators?” he said. “That board has an awful lot of power, and I think that when you have that much power, someone needs to be accountable to voters, and now they won’t be.”