In the wake of last year’s SB 202, Georgia’s Legislature is considering another “omnibus” bill that could substantially change the state’s elections procedures. The current language of HB 1464 was unveiled hours before the March 10 public hearing, and reported out by the House “Special Committee on Election Integrity” the next day.
Statement of Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis
We’ve seen this movie before – and it doesn’t turn out well for Georgians.
The version of HB 1464 that is up for a House floor vote was released just hours before the public hearing – depriving the voters of the chance to meaningfully review and comment on it.
With that amendment, the bill grew from 4 pages to 39. But it didn’t get a fiscal note, so there’s no way of knowing how much this version will eventually cost county taxpayers.
This is all-too-familiar to those of us who watched SB 202 steamroller through the legislative process last year.
But Georgians need to be paying attention. This bill includes “statement” provisions that “send a message” to segments of the political base – but those provisions will have long-term consequences.
Special law enforcement bureaucracy to investigate election allegations? Check. The Florida legislature pushed their version of “Election Police” through just last week; it’s going to cost Floridians $3.7 million a year. The election “Bureau” in the Texas Attorney General’s office cost taxpayers $2.2 million a year – and only closed three cases.
Putting new limitations on private grants to counties? Check. The newest conspiracy theory blames Center for Tech and Civic Life grants for the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. The election-deniers conveniently ignore the fact that the grant program gave money to every legitimate jurisdiction that asked for it – regardless of whether it was a “red” or “blue” area. They ignore the fact that the money was desperately needed by local offices trying to safely conduct elections during the pandemic. And they ignore the fact that it was voters – Georgia’s voters – who decided the 2020 election in our state.
Is the Legislature willing to step up and properly fund our elections? In 2020, 46 offices in Georgia applied for and received grants totaling more than $45 million from the Center for Tech and Civic Life. That includes counties like Bartow, Charlton, Lanier, Lee, Polk, and Rabun.
HB 1464 would make it harder for local jurisdictions to receive such funding in the future – but it doesn’t propose having the state make up the difference.
Based on what we saw last year, with SB 202, this bill could acquire even more “statement” provisions as it moves through the rest of the legislative process. But the legislative process should not be used to send “messages” to “the base.” We urge the Senate to remove provisions that are grounded more in rhetoric than reality.
We also urge the Senate to follow a more careful process with this year’s “omnibus” elections bill. The final version of SB 202 moved through the entire legislative process in a matter of just hours, from unveiling of the language to the Governor signing it into law. Haste does not make for good public policy, and it effectively shuts the public out of what should be the public’s business.
We urge the Senate to consider this bill with a more-deliberative process than the House used.
We also urge the Senate to consider the impact this legislation will have on our local elections officials, to better quantify the bill’s financial cost, and to provide full funding needed by elections offices statewide.
Read “Following Passage of SB 202, Grassroots Groups call for Greater Transparency by General Assembly” here.
Read “Federal Lawsuit Says Georgia’s SB 202 is a Culmination of Concerted Efforts to Suppress the Participation of Black Voters and Other Voters of Color” here.
Read “Anti-Voter ‘Omnibus’ Heads to Governor’s Desk” here.