Debate continues on Georgia’s newly signed election reform bill

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Georgia generic image(WALB)
Updated: Mar. 26, 2021 at 5:28 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a bill Thursday that will make changes to the state’s election process.

The Republican-sponsored bill comes after a record-breaking turnout that led to Democratic victories in the presidential contest and two U.S. Senate runoffs.

“I applaud the governor for signing this bill,” U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter said.

“One of the most egregious bills I’ve seen in 20 years,” state Rep. Al Williams said.

Mixed feelings toward Georgia’s new election law.

“It actually expands voting,” Rep. Carter said.

State Republican lawmakers who voted for the bill say the law increases accessibility to voters. Rep. Carter does not vote on state laws but agrees and supports the changes.

“It gives more people the chance to vote but it also puts in the checks and balances to make people have confidence in our voting system,” he said.

The law, however, places new restrictions on voting by mail - cutting the time people have to request an absentee ballot and limiting where ballot drop boxes can be placed and when they can be accessed.

Just a few of the restrictions that disturb Rep. Williams, who voted against it. “A person shouldn’t have to struggle to vote in America,” Rep. Williams said.

But Rep. Carter doesn’t see it that way. He says these restrictions are put into place for a reason. “Legal votes are going to be counted. No illegal votes,” Rep. Carter said.

The law now requires a photo ID or your state driver’s license number in order to vote absentee by mail, which many Republicans say could have prevented voter fraud - though there’s been no proof of widespread voter fraud.

“Why are we doing a bill looking for a problem? Fraud did not win this election,” Rep. Williams said.

The biggest change? It gives the GOP-controlled legislature more control over election administration.

Rep. Carter saying it is needed, and Rep. Williams saying it isn’t right. But both agreeing, the new law will impact elections from here on out in a big way.

The new law comes after three separate recounts showed no significant irregularities in the vote in November.

The list below is how local state representatives and senators voted on SB202:

  • Sen. Billy Hickman (R) – Yes
  • Sen. Lester Jackson (D) – No
  • Sen. Sheila McNeill (R) – Yes
  • Sen. Blake Tillery (R) – Yes
  • Sen. Ben Watson (R) – Yes
  • Rep. Jon Burns (R) – Yes
  • Rep. Buddy DeLoach (R) – Yes
  • Rep. Carl Gilliard (D) – No
  • Rep. Bill Hitchens (R) – Yes
  • Rep. Don Hogan (R) – Yes
  • Rep. Derek Mallow (D) – No
  • Rep. Steven Meeks (R) – Screven
  • Rep. Greg Morris (R) – Vidalia
  • Rep. Butch Parrish (R) – Yes
  • Rep. Jesse Petrea (R) – Yes
  • Rep. Mickey Stephens (D) – Excused
  • Rep. Ron Stephens (R) – Yes
  • Rep. Jan Tankersley (R) – Yes
  • Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R) – Yes
  • Rep. Al Williams (D) – No

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger commented on the debate over the bill:

“The cries of ‘voter suppression’ from those on the left ring as hollow as the continuously debunked claims of ‘mass voter fraud’ in Georgia’s 2020 election,” Raffensperger said. “We don’t have systemic voter suppression, and we don’t have mass voter fraud. What we have is systemic lies for political gain that have led to a loss of public confidence in our elections.”

The New York Times wrongly reported Thursday that Georgia “passed a sweeping law to restrict voting access in the state.” CNN is breathlessly reporting on Georgia’s “new law suppressing voting access.” Stacey Abrams is no doubt fund-raising off her absurd – and offensive – suggestion that this law is “Jim Crow 2.0.”

“These narratives are as lazy, biased and political as they are demonstrably wrong,” Raffensperger said.

“There’s no rational argument against requiring state ID – provided for free to those who don’t have a driver’s license – for absentee ballots,” Raffensperger said. “I implemented our first version of that last year; every absentee ballot request that came in through the state website was cross-referenced with the driver’s license database and other records. This also requires counties to offer more weekend voting and puts drop boxes into law for the first time – the State Board of Elections adopted them as an emergency measure last year in response to the pandemic. Absentee ballot drop boxes would have gone away without direct action by the General Assembly.

“The left said that photo ID for in-person voting would suppress votes. It didn’t. Registration and turnout soared, hitting new records with each election cycle. Their cataclysmic predictions about the effects of this law are simply baseless. The next election will prove that, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for the left and the media to admit they were wrong.”

“I’m a conservative Republican, but I’ve proven I’ll take a political hit to treat everyone equally under the law and stand up for the rights of all Georgians. The national media loved what I was saying when it differed from the views of President Trump. I hope they’re as interested in my point of view now that it differs with Stacey Abrams.”

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