Georgia Legislators Advance Bill That Would Curb Mail Ballot Requests

June 24, 2020 by Dan McCue
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger meets with members of the RPCoalition and the Fulton County elections board.

A Georgia House committee Wednesday gave its blessing to a bill that would prevent election officials from acting on their own to send mail ballot request forms to voters ahead of any election.

If the bill clears both Republican controlled chambers of the Georgia legislature, and is signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, also a Republican, it could take effect ahead of the general election in  November.

Earlier this month, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sent absentee ballot applications to nearly 7 million registered voters ahead of the state’s June 9 primary election.

One effect of the action by Raffensperger, who is also a Republican, is that the state saw particularly high voter participation by registered Democrats.

Despite Raffensperger’s efforts, the primary was still marred by problems, due mostly to experienced poll watchers sitting out the election due to the coronavirus and their replacements being unfamiliar with the new voting equipment Georgia is employing this year.

The state Senate is currently considering a bill that would make a number of changes to Georgia’s election law, most of which were said to be proposed to make elections easier to hold during the pandemic.

What the House Governmental Affairs Committee did Wednesday was add an amendment that would bar Raffensperger’s office and county election officials from proactively mailing out absentee ballot applications.

Republican Rep. Shaw Blackmon, chairman of the committee, told reporters in Atlanta on Wednesday that the change is meant to help county election officials avoid being flooded with absentee ballot applications.

“There’s no attempt in any way to remove the ability to request or vote in this particular manner,” Blackmon said. “It just is a capacity issue.”

Under the bill, individual voters would essentially be left to start the process themselves if they want to vote absentee.

Rep. Renitta Shannon, a Georgia House Democrat, said via Twitter that the amendment simply isn’t needed.

“The Secretary of State has already made a ruling on this,” Shannon said. “All this does is seek to remove local control [of elections]. That’s all it does.”

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