Since 2005, Georgia law allows every resident over the age of 18 to request an absentee ballot. The 2020 presidential election resulted in record-breaking voter turnout. Records were broken in Georgia last year as turnout increased by nearly 9 percentage points over 2016, from 59.1% to 67.6%, thanks to years of grassroots organizing and efforts by voting rights groups to combat voter intimidation, voter suppression and increase turnout of the minority electorate.
However, inspired by the fallout of the 2020 General Election, and powered by former President Donald J. Trump’s grievances, Georgia Republicans have put forth a bill that would severely limit the number of Georgians that can vote-by-mail.
Senate Bill 71 would reduce the categories for which a voter can apply for an absentee ballot. The bill says a person could only request an absentee ballot if they are disabled and provide a doctor’s note, aged 75 and older, or will be out of town on Election Day.
The bill is sponsored by State Senator Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga.
“I wouldn’t call it going backwards. I’d call it going back to a more manageable, more respectable form of voting,” Mullis said.
Mullis, along with fourteen Republicans signed on the brief put forth by the Texas Supreme court challenge that said Georgia’s election process was rife with fraud.
“This unhinged set of voter suppression legislation from a radical Senate Republican leadership appears intended to appease conspiracy theorists like those who stormed the Capitol last month,” tweeted Fair Fight spokesperson Seth Bringman. “Their desperation to hold onto power at the expense of Georgians’ constitutional right to access the ballot has never been clearer.”
Thirty-four states, including Georgia, allow any qualified voter to vote absentee without having to provide an excuse, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
State Republicans also introduced Senate Bill 67, which requires a voter to provide either their driver’s license number or personal ID card number or provide a photocopy of their ID when applying for an absentee ballot.
State Sen. Butch Miller, a Republican from Gainesville, is co-sponsoring the bills.
“I want every legal vote counted, and I want better access for all voters. Accusing our reform efforts of suppression is a political tactic, pure and simple,” Miller said in a written statement. “Even those of us who never claimed that the election was stolen recognize that the electorate has lost confidence in the legitimacy of the system.”
According to Pew Research, Georgia’s eligible voter population grew by 1.9 million between 2000 and 2019, with nearly half of this increase attributed to growth in the state’s Black voting population. Black, Latinx, and Asian voting blocs grew by 10%, compared to an 11% decrease in the White electorate.
State Senator Elena Parent, referred to the package of bills as a “multi-headed monster” of voter suppression after President Joe Biden and U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won in free and fair elections.
“There is no evidence of fraud in the recent Georgia elections,” Parent tweeted. “Now, GA Senate Republicans introduced (a) bevy of bills to try to stop multi-racial, multi-age coalition that elected them from voting. Desperate & shameful.”