CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The debate continues over Georgia’s new election law just days after Governor Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 202 into law. Since then, three lawsuits have been filed by voting rights groups who say the law is a form of voter suppression.
The League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia, a nonpartisan group, believes this law is unecessary and if it stands, will hurt voters in the longrun.
All eyes are on the Peach State once again, this time because of a Republican-led overhaul of election laws some voting rights groups say will have a lasting impact if not changed.
“There is not a single provision in this law that is born out by facts so they’re fixing a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Rebecca Rolfes, president of the League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia.
Supporters of the new law believe it will increase confidence in state elections after the pandemic caused a surge in absentee voting and challenges to election results.
The changes include a provision that makes absentee drop boxes officially part of state law. Counties are required to have at least one. Drop boxes are required to be moved inside of early voting locations.
Rolfes says this provision limiting access to drop boxes is aimed directly at her organization.
“On the one hand, it makes me even prouder of what we did. And on the other hand, it’s infuriating. The provisions in the law as it’s currently written defeat the purpose of a dropbox,” she said.
The League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia advocated for, raised money, and purchased eight absentee ballot drop boxes for voting locations throughout Chatham County.
The new law also requires a person applying for an absentee ballot to include a photocopy or picture of their ID.
But one thing rubbing many voting rights groups the wrong way is a provision making it a crime to hand out food and water to voters in line.
“The supposed purpose of everything in this law is that it’s going to make elections safer. How does giving somebody a bottle of water undermine the safety of the election?” said Rolfes.
Rolfes says if the law stands and survives the legal challenges it faces, voters will suffer.
“Everything in this law will make the lines longer, which is a form of voter suppression. You discourage people from voting. I don’t have six hours to stand in line. I have to pick my kids up from school. I have a job. I’m 85 years old. I can’t stand up that long, whatever, so you discourage people from voting so they just say ‘Okay! I can’t do it,’” she said.
Rolfes says voters need to focus on future elections coming up, remember politicians who voted for bills they don’t agree with, and challenge them at the polls.
A few other provisions in the law will require a nonpartisan chairperson appointed by the General Assembly to lead the State Election Board. It also allows for two Saturdays of early voting instead of one. Another provision shortens runoffs from nine weeks to four.