Today, Georgia’s House of Representatives passed a substitute version of SB 202, strictly along party lines. The bill is now the third ‘omnibus’ bill to change election practices being considered during the remaining days of the legislative session.
Statement of Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis
One of the most important life lessons is to consider the consequences, before doing something. But in their haste to pass an anti-voter bill – any anti-voter bill – before this legislative session ends, Georgia’s Republican leaders are turning a blind eye to the foreseeable consequences.
Even worse: they’re violating state law, in order to not know about the consequences of their most-recent anti-voting ‘omnibus’ bill.
State law requires an analysis of the fiscal impact of legislation, like the version of SB 202 that the House passed along party lines today. Not only is there no fiscal note for the bill, but there was almost no public notice of the contents of the bill. It passed the Senate as a minor, two-page bill. But there were so many amendments, made so quickly, that legislators could have no way of knowing exactly what they were voting on. Instead, they voted strictly along party lines.
Before House Republicans passed this bill, there was no time talking about its likely consequence: a complete undermining of voters’ ability to trust Georgia’s elections infrastructure.
How are Georgia’s voters supposed to have confidence in our elections, when the highly-partisan state Legislature will control a quorum of the State Election Board? And when that partisan State Election Board has the authority to take over county elections operations?
In a free country, elections shouldn’t be controlled by a single political party. But with these changes in SB 202, Republicans legislators are putting in place a partisan infrastructure that would be able to manipulate — and potentially overturn — future elections.
The bill also makes it much harder for voters to cast our ballots. It reduces the timeframe for voters to request absentee ballots by 109 days; cuts the early voting period for federal runoff elections by two-thirds; keeps us from using drop-boxes to return absentee ballots, except at early voting sites during early voting hours; and requires us to mail copies of photo ID along with our ballot requests and ballots.
This bill is draconian and anti-democratic.
The process used to pass it has been reactionary and full of lies — the antithesis of what people in a functioning democracy should be able to expect. We should be able to expect our elected representatives to do ‘the people’s business’ in public view, with ample opportunity for the public to be heard.
Instead, the process used to pass this bill has been chaotic, last-minute and done behind closed doors. The sequence of events — last-minute hearings, last-minute bill substitutions — has clearly demonstrated that the General Assembly needs to be covered by Georgia’s Open Meetings Act.
There’s nothing more fundamental to our government than our ability to cast our ballots and have our voices heard. Georgians’ right to vote should be protected — not subjected to partisan whims.
We urge the Senate to turn down this effort to impose partisan control on our state’s elections.