In the span of a few hours Thursday, the GOP-controlled Georgia legislature sped a sweeping elections bill through two chambers, putting the battleground state on a course to impose new voting restrictions on citizens in a state that was pivotal to securing Democratic control of the White House and the US Senate this year.
The bill, passed the Georgia Senate by a 34-20 vote late Thursday afternoon, and heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who announced moments after the vote that he would sign it later Thursday.
The legislation would impose new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, empower state officials to take over local elections boards, limit the use ballot drop boxes and make it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water.
“It’s like the Christmas tree of goodies for voter suppression,” Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan said on the Senate floor as lawmakers considered the nearly 100-page bill.
Republicans cast the measure, dubbed The Election Integrity Act of 2021 as needing to boost confidence in elections after the 2020 election that saw former President Donald Trump make repeated, unsubstantiated claims of fraud.
The package is part of a national Republican effort that aims to restrict access to the ballot box following record turnout in the November election.
President Biden said in his first White House press conference Thursday that he will “do everything” in his power to halt efforts to restrict voting rights, saying that he thinks the efforts underway in state legislatures are “un-American.”
About the bill: The Georgia bill — SB 202 — would limit drop boxes to the inside of early voting locations during voting hours, make giving food or drinks to a voter a misdemeanor, allow for unlimited challenges to voter registrations and eligibility, and grant state officials broad rights, including the ability to replace local election officials. It would also shorten the runoff cycle from the current nine weeks to just four weeks and remove the elected secretary of state as chair of the state election board.