Republican lawmakers in Georgia are fast-tracking an election security bill that critics say will make ballot counting more cumbersome while intimidating voters.
The Georgia House on Thursday night could vote on a bill that would make significant changes to the state’s electoral system that supporters say will restore voter confidence and improve oversight. The legislation comes a year after Georgia made headlines for enacting a controversial election bill. Critics say the new bill is being rushed through and will make it even harder to vote in the state.
House Bill 1464 would add new security protocols for handling ballots, give the Georgia Bureau of Investigation a central role in election-related investigations and require the state Board of Elections to approve donations to the electoral offices of outside groups.
“Every time we add law enforcement and GBI involvement, it’s really on the borderline of intimidation, of voters, of election workers and of activists involved,” the representative said. State Democrat Rhonda Burnough during a committee hearing last week. “It’s really hard for some counties to recruit poll workers right now and threatening to bring in a GBI just makes it worse.”
Burnough added that the bill is unnecessary and lends credence to the “big lie”, a reference to former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims that he was denied a second term due to fraud. widespread election. Democrat Joe Biden narrowly carried Georgia in 2020.
Republican State Rep. Rick Williams countered that GBI investigators are nonpartisan, unlike the Secretary of State’s office, and that the legislation will restore confidence in state elections.
The bill passed out of committee last week. Thursday is the last day of the current legislative session in Georgia for bills to be voted on out of the chamber where they were introduced.
Republican State Rep. James Burchett, the bill’s sponsor, said in a Facebook video Thursday that the bill allows employees to request time off to vote sooner and creates a process for citizens to inspect. ballots through an election clerk. Many local election commissions are already using the bill’s chain of custody provisions, Burchett said.
He said the bill would require donations to support Georgia’s elections from nonprofits or other groups to be approved by the state’s Election Commission to ensure that the money would be used for “partisan” purposes and to help voters.
“In other words, it doesn’t give either party an advantage. They could determine that this money is allowed,” he said.
Voting rights group Fair Fight said on Twitter that the bill could block at least $43.3 million in donations to what it called cash-strapped counties, including items like the food and water. The group added that the chain-of-custody requirement will add new burdens to election offices while opening them up to new scrutiny that will delay the certification process.
“Put simply, this is a wide-ranging attack on Georgia’s election that could make it harder for eligible voters to vote and make them count,” the group said.
Newsweek contacted Burchett and Fair Fight for comment.