Senate Committee Holds Public Hearing on Georgia’s ‘Election Police’ Bill

The Senate Ethics Committee is holding its public hearing on HB 1464 starting at 4pm today. Livestream of the hearing is available here.

Statement of Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis

A rushed legislative process rarely makes for good public policy. And this bill is being rushed through the legislative process, just like last year’s SB 202 was.

We hear through the rumor mill that the Committee is considering changes to make it clear that ballots will be available for public inspection only after an election is certified. We hope this rumor is true. We can only imagine the chaos that could be caused if the ballots were made publicly available while they were still being counted.

We again flag that the provisions making it harder for local jurisdictions to receive private grant funding are unnecessary and risk harm to counties, particularly smaller and rural counties. The theory that nonpartisan nonprofit grant monies influenced the 2020 presidential election is just that – a conspiracy theory pushed by partisan extremists who are still trying to change the election outcome. But in 2020, many jurisdictions in Georgia did not have enough money to buy PPE, pay postage, pay poll workers or buy needed equipment. What would our 2020 elections have been like, without the money from that nonpartisan nonprofit?

Yet because of the extremists’ rhetoric, some legislators now want to create barriers to counties accepting such grants in the future.

We call upon those same legislators to fully fund our elections offices – so that there will be no need for private funding – rather than creating barriers to our election officials having the resources they need to do their jobs.

We also again flag that: Georgia does not need its own version of Florida’s ‘Election Police.’ Around the country, lots of states have spent lots of money undermining confidence in our elections. Arizona taxpayers have spent more than $4 million on the Cyber Ninjas boondoggle. Wisconsin taxpayers are spending at least $680,000, and Pennsylvania taxpayers are spending more than $450,000, on their states’ sham reviews of the 2020 elections. Texas taxpayers spent more than $2 million on an ‘election integrity’ unit that worked for a year and closed three cases. Florida’s taxpayers will be on the hook for $3.7 million a year to fund Governor DeSantis’ ‘Election Police.’ Where does this stop? How much taxpayer money will it take to satisfy the partisan extremists?

And now some of Georgia’s legislators want to have a Peach State version of the ‘Election Police.’

Our tax money could be better spent fully funding our elections offices. Or on improving our economy and creating better jobs. Or on improving our public schools. There are so many better ways to spend Georgians’ tax dollars.

 And we also flag that this bill could be an opportunity to require adequate numbers of emergency paper ballots at voting sites, in case of long lines or equipment failures. But we don’t see that in the current version of the bill.

There are provisions in the current version that we support: extending employees’ time off for voting to the early voting period; changing the third-party ballot application disclaimer to make it less confusing voters; and easing some of the reporting burden on overworked election officials, on election night.

But the bill, as it stands now, will have a net-negative effect on Georgians’ freedom to vote.

We hope that the Committee members will consider this bill through the lens of taxpayers, voters and election officials – and that they will strip out the harmful provisions to make this a bill that all Georgians can support.