3/22/2021 - Elections bills bring out passion in everyone. We all know how important it is to our way of government. House Bill 531 was written by the House Special Committee on Election Reform to re-tool the mechanics of a flawed system. The elections of 2018 and 2020 created a lack of confidence and trust by citizens of both political stripes. Confidence and integrity of our elections are the bedrock of Constitutional democracy. The election system of Georgia has been outgrown by the high numbers of voters, and with 159 counties interpreting the laws and rules differently, validity was questioned.
As with every major piece of legislation, there is a lot of misinformation to its content and effect. It is my opinion this misinformation is being used to ‘shake the money tree’ in preparation for the 2022 elections in Georgia. The terms ‘voter suppression’ and ‘Jim Crow’ are disingenuous and divisive, but serve those groups’ hidden agendas of raising money for political goals. I encourage all interested to go online and read the Bill.
Key points of House Bill 531 as passed by the House last week are:
• Eliminates private funding of county election offices to stop undue partisan influence of elections.
• Eliminates subjective signature matching on absentee ballot requests and ballots and replaces it with objective driver’s license number, state ID numbers, or any identification permitted by the federal Help America Vote Act.
• Makes clear what is and is not an official absentee ballot application, including disclaimers.
• Requires one drop box per county, or the lesser of one drop box per 100,000 registered voters or the number of early voting locations, and establishes uniform rules for drop boxes, including monitoring inside an early voting location.
• Sets start and end dates for absentee ballot applications from 180 days before an election to 78 days before an election.
• Allows early scanning of absentee ballots and greater transparency, without tabulation.
• Adds criminal penalties for ballot harvesting.
• Eliminates mobile voting locations, except for emergencies declared by the Governor at a particular precinct.
• Sets uniform times for advance voting across the state.
• Prohibits changes to advance voting locations within 14 days of a regular election.
• Prohibits out-of-precinct voting.
• Shortens runoffs to four weeks by using a ranked-choice voting for Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act voters.
• Eliminates jungle special elections for statewide officers that are filled by the Governor.
• Requires security paper for ballots that includes features to authenticate the ballot.
• Requires training of poll watchers and ensures ability of poll watchers to observe tabulating center.
• Creates bipartisan ballot duplication panels for any ballots that need to be adjudicated.
• Ensures voter registration lists for special and general elections are the same if held the same day.
When your Legislature convenes, it’s a process, not an event, and it requires the majority of 180 House and 56 Senate votes to pass legislation. The Senate will now review HB 531, and the House will review the Senate’s SB 241 and make changes they want. We will vote on these bills and then create a conference committee to work out the differences.
More Georgians voted in the November 2020 general election than ever before – some 5 million voters. Georgia is a state that cherishes the right to vote, encourages citizens to vote, and protects the sanctity of the ballot box. House Bill 531 protects the right to vote while building public confidence in elections in Georgia.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your State Representative for House District 11. Please be in touch with me on any matter of state government, at the Capitol, 404-656-7153 or by email at email@example.com