Georgia Senate hands off to House bills to restrict absentee voting
This story has been updated.
By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor
Atlanta, GA — Voters rights groups in DeKalb County have a watchful eye on the Georgia legislature this month. On Monday, the Georgia Senate passed SB 241 – a bill to end no-excuse absentee voting and require voter ID. The bill is now off to the House of Representatives, where a host of elections bills originated this session.
Voting restriction bills are being labeled dangerous suppression, and the attention on legislation has been escalating for months. Since Georgia turned blue with the election of Democrats President Joe Biden, senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, voter restriction bills have been in the works locally and nationally.
In December, leaders of Indivisible GA 04 and the League of Women voters, both DeKalb County residents, criticized DeKalb County Board of Elections for lack of accessibility to polls.
Since then, DeKalb County elected officials have held virtual forums to educate voters, DeKalb County Elections Board wrote a letter of disapproval to legislators and scores of other groups have challenged restrictive bills.
Fair Fight tweeted March 8: “The GOP-led Georgia Senate just voted 29-20 to PASS #SB241, one of the worst voter suppression bills in the country … The GOP continues their relentless attack on voting rights.”
Georgia’s laws allowed for no-excuse absentee voting for 16 years, voted in by Republicans. New Georgia Project said SB 241 is a dangerous bill that guts access to no-excuse absentee voting and creates barriers for eligible voters to cast their ballot.
Nsé Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project Action Fund, said, “Make no mistake: SB 241 is a dangerous bill that will strip voting rights from Black, Brown, young, and immigrant communities here in Georgia. Through this bill, Republican lawmakers make it explicitly clear what we have known along: they will do everything in their power to keep us quiet and systematically destroy our rights. This bill is a direct response to the way our communities exercised our power in the November election and January runoff. Its passing will have ramifications for years to come.
“Though SB 241 represents a critical setback, we will not be silenced. Georgia’s voters are powerful and here to stay — we won’t stop until our voices are heard loud and clear. We will continue knocking on doors, calling our neighbors, and rising up until each one of us can exercise our most basic American right freely: the right to vote.”
Coalition for Good Governance is following numerous bills at the Gold Dome, including measures to eliminate privacy protection at the polls.
“In addition to the stinging restrictions of access to the ballot box, the Republican lawmakers are making sweeping changes to mail balloting to degrade security and loosen important controls, ironically in the name of ‘election security.’ Experts agree that substituting drivers’ license numbers for unique verifiable signatures is utterly unacceptable and invites fraud. Early scanning of ballots sounds innocuous but permits insiders to access voting trends early, which is a recipe for manipulation. One of the most insidious and intimidating effects is that SB241 effectively takes away the ability to vote a secret ballot in Georgia,” said Marilyn Marks, executive director of Coalition for Good Governance. “SB241 must be defeated.”
Director of Asian American Advocacy Fund, Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood, said: “When our communities turn out the vote, we make a big difference, just like we saw in November 2020 and in January 2021. Limiting opportunities to vote by mail is an attempt to curtail the surge in voter turnout amongst Asian American and other voters of color. In November 2020, 85 percent of Asian Americans across Georgia voted early or voted by mail. SB 241 passed despite the lack of bipartisan support and no consultation from voting rights groups, and we’re extremely disappointed. We are going to continue to engage our communities to fight back against SB 241 and all the anti-voting bills that threaten our freedom to vote.”
The Georgia legislative session ends April 2.
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