New Election Changes Signed into Law by Georgia Governor

Governor Brian Kemp has approved new legislation that will make changes to Georgia’s election laws in preparation for the 2024 presidential election. These changes include defining probable causes for removing voters from the rolls when their eligibility is challenged.

In recent years, Republican activists, fueled by discredited claims of election fraud, have challenged over 100,000 voters in the state. These activists claim they are identifying duplicate records and voters who have relocated out of state.

The bill, known as SB 189, signed by Kemp on Tuesday, outlines reasons such as death, evidence of voting in another jurisdiction, tax exemptions indicating primary residence elsewhere, or a nonresidential address that can justify removing voters from the rolls. It also mentions the National Change of Address list as a potential cause, but not the only one.

Supporters argue that the new definition of probable cause will make challenging voter eligibility more rigorous. However, opponents contend that these changes could lead to baseless attacks on voters, overwhelming election officials and disenfranchising legitimate voters. For example, living at a commercial property could be considered a nonresidential address. Officials from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office suggest using more reliable sources like driver’s license data to verify voter eligibility.

The Georgia bill also permits challenges to be accepted and voters to be removed from the rolls up to 45 days before an election. This provision has raised concerns of potential lawsuits from liberal groups as federal law prohibits systematic changes to voter rolls within 90 days of a federal election.

Furthermore, the bill mandates that homeless individuals must use the county voter registration office as their address instead of their actual living location. Critics argue that this could make it more difficult for homeless citizens to cast their votes if their designated polling place is far away.

Critics have labeled the law as a form of voter suppression that empowers right-wing activists to target Black and Brown voters. Andrea Young, the executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, described it as a setback for voting rights and access, stating that they will challenge the law in court.

The bill also extends ballot access to any political party that has qualified in at least 20 states or territories, potentially benefiting independent candidates like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., causing concerns among Democrats that it could draw support away from President Joe Biden.

Other changes in the bill include removing Secretary of State Raffensperger from his position on the State Election Board. Many Republicans who believe Trump was wrongly denied Georgia’s electoral votes in 2020 view Raffensperger as an adversary for defending the election results showing Biden’s victory.

Raffensperger and others had urged Kemp, a former Secretary of State, to veto the bill, but it was ultimately approved.

Additionally, the bill prohibits the use of QR codes to count ballots created on the state’s marking devices starting July 1, 2026. Instead, votes must be counted based on human-readable marks like filled-in bubbles. The bill also requires counties to report absentee ballot results within an hour of polls closing and allows the use of paper ballots in elections with fewer than 5,000 registered voters starting in 2025.

On the same day, Kemp vetoed a separate election bill that aimed to ban political contributions from foreign nationals and impose additional registration requirements on agents of foreign principals, citing existing federal laws and unintentional registration requirements in the bill.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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