As the Daily Wire reported, “Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed the Republican-backed ‘Election Integrity Act of 2021,’ or SB 202, into law Thursday as Democratic lawmakers protested the bill.”
“With Senate Bill 202, Georgia will take another step toward ensuring our elections are secure, accessible and fair,” Gov. Kemp said on Thursday. “Ensuring the integrity of the ballot box isn’t partisan, it’s about protecting the very foundation of who we are as Georgians and Americans.”
Predictably, Democrats condemned the bill as a supposed symptom of continued voter suppression and white supremacy. For example, Elizabeth Warren compared the bill to Jim Crow while promoting the now debunked conspiracy theory that Stacey Abrams won the Georgia gubernatorial race in 2018.
“The Republican who is sitting in Stacey Abrams’ chair just signed a despicable voter suppression bill into law to take Georgia back to Jim Crow. The Senate must pass the #ForThePeople Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act immediately — our democracy is at stake tonight,” she wrote on Twitter.
While much of the criticism focuses either on these wildly unsubstantiated and hyperbolic comparisons to Jim Crow policies or specific cynical mischaracterizations of the bill — such as Sen. Jon Ossoff tweeting “Among its outrageous provisions: it criminalizes giving water to voters who are waiting in line” — it remains important to avoid the distractions of partisan politics and understand what the bill actually says.
Here’s what you need to know about SB 202.
Voter ID requirements for absentee ballots
One of the central components of SB 202 is an ID requirement for absentee voting.
Currently, all that was required was that voters sign an application, with signature matching processes used to verify the identity of the potential voter. Now, absentee voters will be required to provide some form of identification, whether it be a driver’s license, state ID number, or other form of identification.
“Any person applying for an absentee-by-mail ballot shall make application in writing on the form made available by the Secretary of State. In order to confirm the identity of the voter, such form shall require the elector to provide his or her name, date of birth, address as registered, address where the elector wishes the ballot to be mailed, and the number of his or her Georgia driver’s license or identification card – 35 – LC 28 0325S issued pursuant to Article 5 of Chapter 5 of Title 40,” the bill declares. “If such elector does not have a Georgia driver’s license or identification card issued pursuant to Article 5 of Chapter 5 of Title 40, the elector shall affirm this fact in the manner prescribed in the application and the elector shall provide a copy of a form of identification listed in subsection (c) of Code Section 21-2-417. The form made available by the Secretary of State shall include a space to affix a photocopy or electronic image of such identification. The Secretary of State shall develop a method to allow secure electronic transmission of such form.”
The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot in this manner will also be set at 11 days before election day.
Reduction in early voting before runoffs, with runoffs held four weeks after general election
The bill reduces the early voting period before runoffs from three weeks to as little as one week.
The bill also calls for runoffs to be held four weeks after the general election, writing “The lengthy nine-week runoffs in 2020 were exhausting for candidates, donors, and electors. By adding ranked choice voting for military and overseas voters, the run-off period can be shortened to a more manageable period for all involved, easing the burden on election officials and on electors.”
However, weekend voting for general elections has been expanded, with a mandatory two Saturdays of voting offered across the state. Counties are also able to decide whether to offer early voting on two optional Sundays.
Aims to address and update voter processes and disparities after COVID-19 alterations
The argument throughout the presidential election in favor of mass absentee voting was that it was a necessary change required to deal with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. SB 202 makes the inarguable point that, “The stress of the 2020 elections, with a dramatic increase in absentee-by-mail ballots and pandemic restrictions, demonstrated where there were opportunities to update existing processes to reduce the burden on election officials and boost voter confidence.”
In the same section, the bill also noted the “broad discretion allowed to local officials” when it came to altering voting dates and hours, which led to “significant variations across the state.”
In addition to disparities regarding timing, the bill also notes the variation in funding. “Some counties in 2020 received significant infusions of grant funding for election operations, while other counties received no such funds. Promoting uniformity in the distribution of funds to election operations will boost voter confidence and ensure that there is no political advantage conferred by preferring certain counties over others in the distribution of funds,” the bill reads.
The use of drop boxes was also referenced, with the bill writing that “Opportunities for delivering absentee ballots to a drop box were first created by the State Election Board as a pandemic response. The drop boxes created by rule no longer existed in Georgia law when the emergency rules that created them expired. The General Assembly considered a variety of options and constructed a system that allows the use of secured containers, while also ensuring the security of the system.”
Now, ballot drop boxes will only be permitted inside early voting locations and only available during business hours.
Finally, counties will be required to certify the results of the elections within a six day period, rather than the current 10. Most notably, election workers must complete the counting of ballots once counting has commenced.
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.