Georgia’s Republican Governor, Brian Kemp, has signed into law a Republican-sponsored bill that places restrictions on voting by mail and gives legislators more control over how elections are run.
According to the Associated Press, on Thursday, Kemp signed the bill that Democrats and voting rights groups say would disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color.
The bill is among a wave of GOP-backed election bills introduced in several states across the country after Donald Trump spread false claims that he lost the 2020 presidential election due to election fraud.
Following the signing of the bill, Kemp attempted to deliver remarks, but a commotion transpired. Kemp was heard asking an aide, “What’s the problem?” before the live stream event cut out.
Roughly ten protesters against the bill stood outside Kemp’s office, including African American Democratic state Reps. Park Cannon and Erica Thomas. Capitol police arrested Cannon after he knocked on the governor’s door during his remarks.
The voting law changes come after a record-breaking turnout that turned the state of Georgia blue and helped President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris win the election, as well as two U.S. Georgia Senators, Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
Two hours after the bill passed the final stage in the Georgia General Assembly, Kemp endorsed it. The bill passed the state House 100-75 Thursday before the state Senate quickly agreed to House changes 34-20 later that day. Republicans in the legislature were in support, but Democrats opposed it, including Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, who says it’s is filled with “voter suppression tactics.”
“We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we’ve seen since the Jim Crow era,” Butler added.
Democratic Rep. Rhonda Burnough shared the same sentiments, saying, “Georgians turned out in record-breaking numbers because they could access the ballot,” Burnough said. “Lies upon lies were told about our elections in response, and now this bill is before us built on those same lies.”
The bill now requires a photo ID to vote absentee by mail. Before the bill, over 1.3 million Georgia voters used the mail option during the coronavirus pandemic. The law also lessens the time people have to request an absentee ballot while also limiting where drop boxes can be placed and when they can be accessed.
To support the bill’s changes, Republican Rep. Jan Jones said the provision lessening time people have to request an absentee ballot would “increase the likelihood of a voter’s vote being cast successfully.”
However, one of the most significant changes stemming from the bill is that the GOP-controlled legislature will have more control over election administration, a change that voting rights groups are concerned about could lead to a great partisan influence, the AP reported.
The bill also replaced the elected Secretary of State as the chair of the election board. Kemp will appoint a new legislator, a move that comes after Trump’s attempt to get current SOS Brad Raffensperger to overturn Georgia’s election results. Furthermore, the state election board will be allowed to remove and replace county election officials deemed underperforming.
Fortunately, the law wasn’t able to include some of the more contentious proposals, such as limiting early voting on Sundays, a day many Black churchgoers used to vote in “souls to the polls” events. However, it does mandate two Saturdays of early voting before the general elections.