Georgia House Subcommittee Quietly Considers Elections Legislation

Tuesday, without much public notice, the Redistricting & Elections Subcommittee of the House Committee on Governmental Affairs held a hearing on elections-related legislation.

Watch the recording here.

HB 1085 would provide for the option for municipalities to adopt and use instant runoff voting for their elections.

HB 933 would change current law regarding the retention and preservation of ballots and other election documents.

Testimony of Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis about HB 1085

The current election system forces voters to make a choice about which candidate they believe is most electable, regardless of whether that candidate is the one that best represents their views. It limits choices for voters as well by pressuring candidates to drop out for fear of being a “spoiler,” while at the same time allows candidates to ignore communities as they seek to win a plurality in primary races.

Instant runoffs incentivize candidates to engage with more communities, as they are also competing for second choice votes. This can lessen the incentive to run a negative campaign, as candidates do best when they reach out positively to as many voters as possible, including those supporting their opponents. It will diversify the choices for voters, reducing the pressure on candidates to drop out at risk of being a spoiler and allowing voters to cast a ballot for the candidate that best represents their views, regardless of electability. 

A growing number of states and jurisdictions are using the instant runoff system. Notably, 23 Utah cities and towns opted into a municipal pilot program authorized by the state legislature, like what is being proposed here.

Read the full testimony here.

Statement of Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis about HB 933

Current law protects the integrity of voted ballots and other election materials, ensuring they are preserved and available in case of a legal challenge. It also provides public access to the images of voted ballots, in a careful balancing of interests between the public’s right to inspect records and the need to preserve documents. 

This bill would upset that careful balance. Yes, it limits the people who can physically touch the voted ballots – but it does not limit the number of requests that can be made, or the timing or circumstances of those requests. There are no guardrails in the legislation as it is currently  crafted. Elections officials could be required to fulfill multiple, simultaneous requests to facilitate inspection of the ballots – potentially at the same time they are trying to certify an election, or conduct a different election, or use the requested ballots to conduct a recount or post-election audit as required by law. 

This bill seems like a hastily-written response to those who are still questioning the results of the 2020 presidential election. We urge the Committee to give this bill an unfavorable report.