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The Georgia state Senate approved legislation Monday to strengthen the state’s voter ID laws while putting limits on who may receive an absentee ballot.
The bill, Senate Bill 241, passed the chamber in a party-line 29-20 vote, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The legislation is moving to the House where it is expected to pass before heading to the desk of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who has not signaled whether he intends to sign the legislation.
Under the new bill, the state would ban so-called no-excuse absentee voting, limiting the number of people who can apply for absentee ballots to those over 65 years of age, those who have a physical disability, and those who are out of town. The new bill would also require voters to present a driver’s license or some other form of identification before receiving their absentee ballot.
Republicans backed the bill arguing that new election protections were needed after Georgia’s November election sparked national scrutiny of the state’s voting practices and multiple ballot recounts. GOP lawmakers argued that a more secure voting process is needed to restore the public’s trust in the state’s elections.
Democrats have charged that the bill is a Republican attempt to suppress voting after the party lost two January runoff elections for U.S. Senate seats. Former state representative and failed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams likened the legislation to “Jim Crow” segregation laws. She also accused the GOP of expressly trying to suppress black voters.
“We are seeing again and again this version of Jim Crow in a suit and tie,” Abrams told Mother Jones. “It is designed explicitly for the same reason as Jim Crow did, to block communities of color from active participation in choosing the leadership that will guide their democracy.”
State Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, a Republican, denied allegations from Democrats. Dugan said that the regulations would take pressure off of election officials tasked with tabulating votes after Georgia saw a historic turnout in recent elections, pushed by a surge in absentee mail-in votes. If the law is signed, millions of Georgians will still be eligible to vote absentee if they choose, he said.
“All this is doing is laying the groundwork to relieve some of the stresses we’ll continue to see moving forward as we continue to grow,” Dugan said, according to the Journal-Constitution.
Republican state Sen. Matt Brass pointed out that Democrats raised concerns about Georgia’s election integrity following races in 2018 in which the Democratic Party lost.
“This didn’t start today. This didn’t start since Nov. 3,” Brass said. “This bill is about reviewing a process that we saw flaws.”
Abrams lost the governor’s race to Kemp in 2018. She refused to concede the race, claiming in a speech over a week after the election that she lost because of voter suppression.
“You see, I’m supposed to say nice things and accept my fate. They will complain that I should not use this moment to recap what was done wrong or to demand a remedy,” she said at the time. “And I will not concede because the erosion of our democracy is not right.”