ATLANTA — In the wake of a tumultuous presidential election where absentee ballots pushed Democrats across the finish line, Republican state lawmakers are mulling additional requirements for Georgia voters who use mail-in ballots.
Top GOP state officials have voiced support for taking additional steps in the process to use absentee ballots — despite record turnout by Georgia voters who relied on the method during the pandemic — citing increased opportunity for fraudulent ballots to be cast.
State officials have reiterated there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 general election despite former President Donald Trump’s fervent and unfounded claims the election was “stolen.”
This week, the first major piece of legislation to target absentee ballot voting was introduced in the Senate. Senate Bill 29 would require Georgia voters to make copies of the photo ID and mail them to elections officials at two different stages of the absentee ballot process in order to cast a mail-in vote.
Voters would be required to submit photo ID both when requesting and returning an absentee ballot.
An analysis by CNHI showed Republicans have a historically higher use of mail-in ballots in Georgia and Florida. But experts suspect Trump’s continued demonization of the voting method turned his voters away from using absentee — unintentionally suppressing his own voting base.
Democrats capitalized on the expanded use of absentee ballots during the pandemic. As votes were slowly tallied in Georgia and across the nation, absentee ballots pushed President Joe Biden ahead.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — who became a target of Trump’s rage this election — has said he would support doing away with no-excuse absentee voting altogether. Both Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan have voiced support of additional photo ID requirements.
During a press conference Wednesday, Duncan said he supports adding another verification step to absentee ballots and sees it as a priority for the 2021 session, but does not support the call from his chamber’s top GOP lawmakers to do away with no-excuse.
The Republican official has noted several times publicly that he does not believe there were waves of fraudulent ballots cast in the Nov. 3 election.
“I don’t necessarily identify a problem we’re trying to solve. I think this is an opportunity,” Duncan said. “I think the best step forward is for us to just look for an opportunity to create a photo ID process.”
But voting rights advocates are crying foul and say this is retaliation after Georgia voters both backed a Democratic presidential candidate and sent two Democrats to the U.S. Senate.
Seth Bringman, spokesman for Fair Fight — a voting advocacy group founded by former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams — said Republicans are “trying to change the rules” they helped craft because of the election outcome.
The proposed double photo ID requirement, he said, would prevent eligible Georgians from casting ballots.
"By requiring access to a printer, which many Georgians obviously do not have, Republicans are attempting to purposely take away the ability of many Georgians to vote by mail simply because they believe too many Democrats and too many people of color voted by mail,” Bringman said in a statement.
The Georgia ACLU pointed to the fact that both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Secretary of State’s office found no trace of fraud after an audit of 15,000 absentee ballots in Cobb County.
“This was the most scrutinized election in Georgia history. Two recounts and an audit that included the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Andrea Young, executive director, said in a statement. “This bill limits ballot access for everyone without an electronic scanner/printer at home. This is wrong.”