‘Déjà vu all over again’ as the Georgia Senate considers another ‘elections omnibus’
- Aunna Dennis (202)644-6500 firstname.lastname@example.org
Today at 5pm, the Georgia Senate Ethics Committee will begin its consideration of HB 1464, an omnibus elections elections bill. Livestream of the hearing will be available here.
Statement of Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis
It’s ‘déjà vu all over again’ as we watch this year’s election omnibus bill wind its way through the legislative process. Just like last year, the process has allowed little or no public input — because if you don’t have a lobbyist, it’s almost impossible to find out what’s going on. It’s both sad and ironic that a bill directly affecting our freedom to vote is being considered using such an opaque process.
Today’s version of the bill does some good things, does some really bad things, and doesn’t take the opportunity to do something that’s really needed.
First, the good: we support the bill’s provisions that would allow for extending time off for employees to allow for early voting; and those changing the third-party ballot application disclaimer to make it less confusing voters. We also support changes to ease some of the reporting burden on overworked election officials, on election night.
The bad: There are provisions that are ambiguous, as written, and ambiguity is not something the Legislature should be adding to Georgia’s election laws. The bill would make it extremely difficult for local officials to access private grant funding for future elections. But it does nothing to replace the more than $45 million in private grant funding that was needed by Georgia’s counties in 2020 – including counties like Bartow, Charlton, Lanier, Lee, Polk, and Rabun.
And the bill includes a Peach State version of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ ‘Election Police.’ Georgia’s Secretary of State’s office already has authority to investigate alleged violations of election law – and they’ve done so, with hyped-up headlines but only ‘a handful of isolated cases verified by investigators’ looking into double voting in the November 2020 election. But the Florida Legislature is now going to spend $3.7 million a year on its ‘Election Police’ – and it looks like Georgia’s Legislature is trying to ‘keep up with the Jonses.’
The missing: voters will remember that many polling places ran out of emergency paper ballots in the June 2020 primary election; and if the Legislature insists on passing another ‘elections omnibus’ bill, they could at least address that problem by increasing the number of emergency ballots that must be kept on-hand.
To be sure, we expect the bill will change in upcoming days – we don’t know how it will change – but we remember that in 2021, the final version of SB 202 was signed the very same day it was unveiled and passed by both chambers.
We hope the bill changes for the better – to include replacement funding for the counties, to lose the ‘Election Police’ provisions and to require more emergency ballots at polling places.
Download Common Cause Georgia’s testimony today about HB 1464 here.