Georgia Elections Overhaul Bill Passes House, Goes to Senate

Georgia’s House of Representatives have passed a sweeping election overhaul bill this week that, among other things would require a photo ID to vote absentee.

On Monday, Lawmakers in the State House passed House Bill 531 by a vote of 97-72.

Chairman of the Special Committee on Election Integrity Republican Rep. Barry Fleming presented the bill to lawmakers and said the bill is designed to bring back confidence in the election process to Georgia voters. Watch Full Bill Explanation by Rep Fleming Here

The bill covers changes to absentee voting, in-person voting, the testing of voting equipment, and the timing of elections.

Under changes to absentee voting, the most notable change is the replacement of signature only absentee ballots with requiring a valid photo ID.

Fleming said the bill would also remove the ability of outside political groups to mail out absentee ballot applications, which he said caused a lot of confusion this past election cycle.

“Many a legislator and citizen has come to me and said, ‘You know someone I know received seven absentee ballots,'” he said. “So one of the common-sense measures in the bill is to make sure that number one that whenever an absentee ballot is sent out it is the official one – not pre-filled out, which caused a lot of improper information coming back to our election boards but also that it clearly disclaims that it is not a ballot but an absentee application.”

Under In-Person Voting, the bill would allow counties to hire poll workers from adjoining counties, require election officials to report voting wait times, and ensures precinct locations are set ahead of time.

The bill also encourages in-precinct voting.

Under testing of voting machines, the bill moves the timeline for the certification of votes to the Monday after the Tuesday election, and it would also require a new security paper for ballots that would catch fake ballots when they’re scanned.

Additionally, the bill would require training for all poll workers statewide and would create a bi-partisan duplicate ballot panel for provisional ballots.

Finally, HB531 would shorten the run-off time from 9 weeks back to the original 4 weeks and eliminate what is known as Jungle Primaries.

“Unfortunately, when you have 20 people on a ballot, I have heard accounts of peoples’ ballots having to be not counted for that race because they voted for two or three people. Well, we all knew we had two u.s. senators we could vote for, right?  running, right? So we can vote for two out of the 20, right?  You see how the confusion can begin. So for the first time, we will limit those jungle primaries in this bill.”

Opponents of the bill say it would disproportionately affect voters of color and are calling the bill voter suppression.

The bill now goes to the State Senate for debate.