“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
During the 2021 legislative session, the Georgia General Assembly introduced dozens of bills aimed at curbing the ability of voters to have access to the polls. While legislators claimed that they were acting to protect election integrity, the truth is that this reaction came after an unprecedented election year, with Georgia going blue for the first time in almost three decades on the Presidential level and both Senate runoff elections also going to Democrats.
Additionally, when prompted for evidence of voter fraud or some malicious activity, legislators were unable to give any concrete example. In fact, the Georgia Secretary of State office even went so far to say that this election was secure and not different in terms of election integrity than any of the previous ones before.
In spite of all this, we’ve seen one of the most comprehensive voting change in years, if not decades, and this has thrown Georgia into the national spotlight. We know this will be confusing for many voters who have been through the system without much change over the years and we’re here to try to help address some of these issues so that voters like you can be informed and prepared for the next election cycle.
1. Mail-in absentee voting has been changed dramatically. Unlike previous rules, which allowed anyone to request an absentee ballot, the new law states that only voters over the age of 65, have a disability, are serving the military or are living overseas will be able to apply for a ballot right away. Voters now are limited to requesting an absentee ballot just 11 weeks before election day. Additionally, voters must turn in their ballots two Fridays before election day. That means ballots must be in two weeks before election day at the minimum, or risk being disqualified entirely. Finally, counties will mail ballots out three weeks later than before, giving voters almost no time to receive it before they must be turned in again.
2. New voter ID laws are in place as well. You’ll need a driver’s license, state ID or an acceptable voter ID to request and return absentee ballots. There is no longer a voter signature match.
3. Absentee ballot drop boxes are also being changed. New laws have capped the number of ballot drop boxes in each county depending on the population of the county. This means that while some counties that never offered ballot boxes will have to provide at least one box, others like Fulton county are limited to just a handful of ballot drop boxes from the dozens that were available before. Furthermore, these boxes are only available during early voting days and hours, which means they are even more restricted.
4. Early voting has also taken major hits. While there has been the addition of an additional Saturday for early voting, Sunday early voting has become optional. Fulton county also can no longer operate their mobile voting buses, which limits the resources available to combat long lines.
5. Don’t forget about food and water. The new law prohibits third parties from providing voters in long lines with food and water. This means that voters waiting in line need to get out of line to get refreshments, or bring them on their own person.
6. If you’re voting provisionally out of precinct, there’s a good chance your vote will not be counted. New laws state that provisional ballots out of precinct will not count unless turned in after 5 p.m. and contains a signed waiver that voters could not make it to their home precinct in time.
There’s plenty of more voting rule changes but these are some of the major changes that will likely affect average voters. We’ll follow up with more information on the new voting changes in another blog so keep tuned and no matter what, make sure to vote every chance you get.