Gov. Brian Kemp Signs Election Reform Bill into Law

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Posted: Mar 25, 2021 10:35 PM
Gov. Brian Kemp Signs Election Reform Bill into Law

Source: AP Photo/John Bazemore

On Thursday afternoon, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law SB 202, which contains multiple provisions to do with election reform. 

Heritage Action, which was vocally in favor of the legislation, outlines some of the bills provisions, including:

  • Protecting absentee voting by requiring voter ID, not automatically sending request forms or ballots to all registered voters, printing ballots on security paper so they can be authenticated, prohibiting ballot trafficking by political operatives, and strengthening supervision of absentee ballot drop boxes.

  • Promoting the integrity of the election process by prohibiting private funding of election officials and government agencies.

  • Increasing the accuracy of voter registration lists.

  • Increasing transparency by allowing election observers complete access to the election process and requiring the ballot-counting to continue without pause until all votes have been tabulated.

In a fact-checking thread over Twitter, the organization addressed and set the record straight on claims, such as that it would eliminate early voting on Sundays, but as Heritage Action pointed out, SB 202 allows for more early voting. Heritage Action also shot back at critics and declared "Conservatives aren't afraid of democracy. We love it! That's why we think it should be easy to vote but hard to cheat," in a tweet.

Reporting from NPR also outlined that:

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday signed a massive overhaul of election laws, shortly after the Republican-controlled state legislature approved it. The bill enacts new limitations on mail-in voting, expands most voters' access to in-person early voting and caps a months-long battle over voting in a battleground state.

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Third-party absentee ballot applications must be more clearly labeled, and state and local governments are not be allowed to send unsolicited applications.

The bill will also shorten Georgia's nine-week runoff period to four weeks by sending military and overseas voters instant-runoff ranked choice absentee ballots and only requiring in-person early voting starting the Monday eight days before election day.

Democrats opposed several pieces of the bill, including language that removes the secretary of state as chair of the State Election Board, allowing the SEB and lawmakers a process to temporarily take over elections offices and limiting the number, location and access to secure absentee drop boxes.

The bill was vocally and persistently opposed by Democrats, perhaps most notably by Stacey Abrams, who was defeated in the 2018 governor's race against Kemp. 

Attorney Marc Elias has promised to file a lawsuit against the legislation.

The state legislation was signed into law as Democrats on Capitol Hill try to overhaul elections at the federal level, through HR 1, the "For the People Act." Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was likely referring to upcoming action with HR 1 in his tweet.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called it a "federal takeover" of elections. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) said it most memorably when he warned that "Everything about this bill is rotten to the core. This is a bill as if written in hell by the Devil himself." He also raised concerns about Democrats engaging "in an effort to ensure an institutional revolutionary Democratic Party of sorts, one that can remain in power for many decades to come." Sen. Lee believes the bill to be unconstitutional, as do a group of Republican Attorney Generals, led by Indiana's Todd Rokita. 

One key provision of HR 1 is that it voters could substitute their ID with a "sworn written statement." Polls show, however, that voter ID laws enjoy majority support. 

That legislation, unsurprisingly, is supported heartily by Abrams, who has even demanded the U.S. Senate to do away with the filibuster in order to pass it without the need for Republican support. 

No Republicans voted for the bill when it passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.