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What's in the Georgia Election Bill?

Republicans in Georgia enacted a set of election changes last month that has become the target of criticism by Democrats, the White House, large corporations, and Major League Baseball. Most of the criticisms center on the new law purportedly making it harder to vote, which allegedly amounts to voter suppression. President Joe Biden called the law “sick” for forcing polls to close at 5 p.m., a claim that even the fact-checkers at the left-wing Washington Post deemed “false.” A review of the 98-page bill (pdf) shows that it would slightly restrict access to early voting while expanding it in other ways. Taken in its totality, the bill appears to have a negligible overall effect on how easy it will be to vote in Georgia during the next election. Meanwhile, nearly all descriptions of the law by establishment media either entirely ignore or mention only in passing its election security and ballot-integrity provisions. Gov. Brian Kemp specifically described the new law—titled the Election Integrity Act of 2021—as one that would make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. The law itself states that the aftermaths of the 2018 and 2020 elections were marked by a significant lack of confidence because of allegations of voter suppression and voter fraud. But even the new election integrity measures are a mixed bag of changes that have already been criticized as not going far enough by former President Donald Trump and former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline. Trump criticized the removal of signature matching, while Kline argued that the bill didn’t do enough to bar the infusion of private money into election infrastructure. Security and Integrity The law includes a number of measures that were designed to tighten election security and the integrity of the ballot. It requires the creation of a hotline where Georgians can report illegal election activities and voter suppression, mandates around-the-clock surveillance of ballot dropboxes, and calls for ballots to be printed on security paper for authentication. The absentee ballot dropboxes now must be secured inside buildings and will only be accessible when those buildings are open for business. The law limits the number of dropboxes to the lesser of one for every 100,000 registered voters or the number of advance voting locations per county. The new rules call for absentee ballots to be removed from the dropboxes each voting day by a team of at least two people, who fill out a ballot transfer form that includes their identities and an affirmation that the dropbox was closed after the ballots were retrieved. The election officials who receive the ballots also are required to fill out a transfer form. The law requires these absentee ballot transfer forms to be a public record. Trump has more than once referred to the more than 400,000 transfer forms that haven’t yet been produced in response to a request by a local news outlet. The Peach State did away with signature matching in favor of verifying voter identities using driver’s licenses and state ID numbers. People without either form of ID can submit the last four digits of their Social Security number. The law makes it a felony for unauthorized persons to handle ballots or unseal absentee ballot envelopes. Voters are also barred from applying for absentee ballots multiple times. “The idea that the Georgia election reform bill is suppressing to voters is a complete lie, it actually expands access to early voting,” Kline wrote on Twitter. “The only thing the Georgia voting bill is suppressing is the left’s ability to cheat in future elections.”

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