Georgia Senate panel OKs change to voting booth requirements

March 3, 2020 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — A bill that would give county election officials in Georgia the flexibility to decide how many voting machines they’ll need for elections that are likely to have lower turnout is advancing quickly in the legislature.

Senate Bill 463 was approved by the Senate Ethics Committee on Tuesday, just days after the legislation was introduced on Friday. Its chief sponsor is Republican state Sen. John Kennedy of Macon.

The bill seeks to reduce long voting lines at Georgia polling places while also giving county officials leeway in the amount of voting stations they would need to set up, depending on the type of election.

Several citizens and voting rights advocates expressed oppositions to the proposal during public testimony Tuesday. The measure could soon move to the full Senate for more debate.

Elections in Georgia have been under a microscope in recent years, and voting rights advocates have complained that hourslong lines in some voting locations deprive people who are unwilling or unable to wait of their right to vote.

For November general elections in even-numbered years, precincts would be required to have one voting machine for every 250 registered voters, which is what’s required for all elections under current law. The new legislation would allow county election officials to provide more or fewer machines for any other election, including primaries or runoffs, based on expected turnout, the number of early or absentee ballots cast and any other relevant factors.

If people in a precinct with more than 2,000 registered voters have to wait in line for more than an hour before checking in to vote, officials would have to make changes before the next election, the legislation says. Officials would have to reduce the size of the precinct or provide additional voting equipment or poll workers.

The bill also syncs the voter registration deadlines for state and federal primary runoffs, allows voters to include a copy of their state ID to verify an absentee ballot and removes language related to Georgia’s old voting system that is no longer in use from state code.