Georgia Senate GOP push for end to no-excuse absentee voting
Atlanta (AP) — Republicans in Georgia’s state Senate are calling for an end to absentee voting without cause and want to ban ballot drop boxes, after an increase in mail voting helped propel Democrat Joe Biden to a narrow victory over President Donald Trump in the state.
Trump has for months made unsubstantiated claims about the integrity of mail-in votes and has made baseless claims of widespread fraud in Georgia’s presidential election. GOP election officials have vehemently and repeatedly disputed those claims, saying there is no evidence of systemic errors or fraud in the November election.
Democrats and voting rights groups say the effort by Republicans is anti-Democratic and, if successful, will disenfranchise lawful voters.
The state Senate Republican Caucus said in a statement Tuesday that they would push for the changes the next time the legislature convenes, while also shooting down the idea of a special legislative session — which Trump has repeatedly called for in the hopes of subverting the election results. The 2021 legislative session is set to begin Jan. 11.
Senate Republicans are also calling for a photo ID requirement for absentee voters who have a specific reason to vote by mail.
Biden beat Trump by more than 11,700 votes in Georgia, a result that was confirmed by two recounts — including an audit that triggered a full hand tally of ballots. Biden received nearly double the number of absentee ballots as Trump, according to the secretary of state’s office. Biden got nearly 850,000 absentee votes by mail, compared to just over 450,000 for Trump.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recertified the state’s election results on Monday after a recount requested by Trump again confirmed Biden’s win. Gov. Brian Kemp recertified the state’s 16 presidential electors shortly afterward.
Lauren Groh-Wargo, the CEO of Fair Fight Action — a voting rights advocacy group founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams — slammed the announcement on Twitter.
“Georgia Republicans are weak and desperate,” Groh-Wargo said. “Guys, Florida and Ohio have similar vote by mail laws as GA and Trump was able to win both states! Access to mail balloting is good for all Americans; the GOP needs to just step up its (get-out-the-vote) game instead of focusing on voter suppression.”
The effort could backfire on Republicans once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. In years prior to 2018, Republicans frequently benefited from absentee voting by mail in Georgia.
Georgians have been able to vote absentee without an excuse since a Republican-controlled legislature introduced it in 2005, though it hadn’t been widely used until this year after the pandemic struck.
Associated Press writer Kate Brumback contributed to this report.