Let’s talk about Georgia’s new voting law and exactly what it does…

In the past we’ve posted only a few bullet points about what the new Georgia law does, but I really want you to get a more in-depth accounting of what the law does so you can see for yourselves how absurd these criticisms are by Democrats and liberal corporations.

I found this great article from Athens Banner-Herald that lays it all the details in a very objective manner. I know it’s somewhat long, but it’s very much worth your full attention. I have, however, created summary bullet points above each section if you don’t have time to read the entire post.

Changes to absentee voting, which include:

  • A shorter 11-week window before the election to apply for absentee ballots;
  • An earlier final deadline of two weeks before the election to complete the application;
  • New ID rules used to validate someone’s identity requesting and returning an absentee ballot;
  • The banning of state and local governments to send out unsolicited absentee ballots;
  • Implementation of secure absentee ballot drop boxes.

Their in-depth write-up on changes to absentee voting:

Mail-in absentee voting will look the most different for voters, especially after 1.3 million people used that method in the November general election. Voters over 65, with a disability, in the military or who live overseas will still be able to apply once for a ballot and automatically receive one the rest of an election cycle. But the earliest voters can request a mail-in ballot will be 11 weeks before an election instead of 180 days — less than half as much time.

The final deadline to complete an application is moved earlier, too. Instead of returning an application by the Friday before election day, SB 202 now backs it up to two Fridays before. Republican sponsors of the bill and local elections officials say this will cut down on the number of ballots rejected for coming in late because of the tight turnaround.

Counties will also begin mailing out absentee ballots about three weeks later than before, starting four weeks before the election.

Requesting and returning a ballot will also require new ID rules: either your driver’s license number, state ID number or, if you don’t have those, a copy of acceptable voter ID. The law also allows for applications to be returned online, after the Secretary of State’s office launched an online request portal using your driver’s license number or state ID number ahead of November’s general election.

Poll workers will use that information, plus your name, date of birth and address, to verify your identity, and you will sign an oath swearing that everything is correct. This is a change from recent procedure that would check your signature on the application with those on file.

State and local governments are no longer allowed to send unsolicited applications, and third-party groups that send applications have new rules to follow, too. Their applications must be clearly marked as being “NOT an official government publication” that it is “NOT a ballot,” and must clearly state which group is sending the blank request.

Plus, third-party groups are only allowed to send applications to voters who have not already requested or voted an absentee ballot. The groups potentially face a penalty for each duplicate sent.

The actual absentee ballot and envelopes will look different, as well. SB 202 requires absentee ballots to be printed on special security paper, and your precinct name will now be included along with precinct ID printed at the top. Once you fill out your choices by filling in the circles for your choices, you will place it in an envelope that will have your name, signature, driver’s license or state ID number (or last four digits of your Social Security number) and date of birth. The envelope will be designed so that sensitive personal information will be hidden once it is sealed.

Military and overseas voters will have an additional set of absentee ballots mailed to them with their regular ballots — ranked choice instant-runoff ballots. Georgia’s runoffs will now be four weeks long instead of nine weeks, but federal law requires ballots to those voters be sent out by 45 days before a federal election. So now, those voters will be given these ranked choice ballots, where they rank their choices for certain races in the event they head to a runoff, and send them back with their primary or general election ballots.

Secure absentee ballot drop boxes — which did not exist a year ago — are now officially part of state law, but not without some new changes. The law now requires all 159 counties to have at least one drop box, caps the number of boxes at one per 100,000 active voters or one for every early voting site (whichever is smaller) and moves them inside early voting sites instead of outside on government property. Additionally, the drop boxes will only be accessible during early voting days and hours instead of 24/7.

The State Election Board authorized drop boxes using the emergency rule process because of the coronavirus pandemic, and even that process is now being tweaked. The board must provide more notice of proposed emergency rules and has a much more limited scope in which it can enact those rules.

Changes to early voting, which include:

  • Expanding early voting to include an additional mandatory Saturday;
  • Prohibiting mobile voting locations;
  • Prohibiting anyone except poll workers from giving water to voters in line;
  • Requirement that early voting locations report daily number of in-person voters, absentee ballots received, etc.

Their in-depth write-up on changes to early voting:

One of the biggest changes in the bill would expand early voting access for most counties, adding an additional mandatory Saturday and formally codifying Sunday voting hours as optional. Counties can have early voting open as long as 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at minimum. If you live in a larger metropolitan county, you might not notice a change. For most other counties, you will have an extra weekend day, and your weekday early voting hours will likely be longer.

If you live in Fulton County, you’ll no longer be able to use one of two mobile voting buses the county purchased last year to help with long lines. While a 2019 omnibus allowed early voting sites to be more locations, including places that are normally election day polls, the Republican-led legislature has now written laws that expressly prohibits a mobile poll except during an emergency declared by the governor.

For polling place changes or closures, the law now requires better notice of those changes, including a 4-by-4-foot sign that shows where the new location is.

Another new rule that affects both in-person early voting and election day voting would prohibit anyone except poll workers from handing out water to voters in line, and outlaw passing out food and water to voters within 150 feet of the building that serves as a poll, inside a polling place or within 25 feet of any voter standing in line. Depending on the location, it is still possible for third-party groups to have food and water available — and it is possible for the lines to extend beyond 150 feet.

During early voting, counties must publicly report daily how many people have voted in person, how many absentee ballots have been issued, returned, accepted and rejected. Early voting sites and times must be published publicly ahead of time.

For runoffs, things would be tighter: the law says early voting should start “as soon as possible” after a primary or general election, and requires in-person early voting the Monday through Friday before the election. This means counties may not be able to offer weekend early voting depending on how quickly it takes them to finish the first election and prepare for the second.

Changes to vote counting, which include:

  • New requirements on processing and counting absentee ballots two weeks before election day;
  • Deadline of 10PM on election day for vote reporting number of all ballots cast;
  • New requirement that ballots must be counted non-stop after polls close and must be completed by 5PM on day following election;
  • New rules on accepting out-of-precinct provisional ballots;
  • New rule for checking ID info written on absentee ballot envelopes.

Their in-depth write-up on changes to vote counting:

Among complaints about the 2020 election was how long it took for some counties to release their final vote totals, how others missed batches of ballots the first time and general confusion about why the process is not over on election night.

A change local officials embrace is a section that allows them to begin processing, but not tabulating, absentee ballots starting two weeks before the election. There’s extra incentive to do so, by way of a new requirement that counties count all of the ballots nonstop as soon as polls close and finish by 5 p.m. the next day or potentially face investigation.

Plus, local officials are required to post and report the total number of ballots cast on election day, during early voting, via absentee voting and provisional ballots, all by 10:00 p.m. on election night, essentially providing the public with a denominator to understand the total possible votes out there as results trickle in.

Speaking of provisional ballots, out-of-precinct provisionals will not count anymore unless cast after 5 p.m. and a voter signs a statement saying they could not make it to their home precinct in time.

Now that counties must finish tabulating all the votes by 5 p.m. the day after the election, lawmakers moved up their election certification deadline to six days after polls close instead of 10.

Absentee ballots will be checked using the ID information voters write on the outside envelopes instead of their signatures, another departure from previous policy.

Those are the big changes that most of us want to know about, and in my estimation they are both fair and appropriate. For the rest, I’m just going to send you to their write-up to read about the last three, which are changes affecting local election offices, the state election board and ‘other changes’.

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