Georgia GOP Seeks Mail-In Ballot Changes

Brian Kemp holds a news conference on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020 at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta. (Ben Gray /Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

After weathering criticism for certifying President Donald Trump’s narrow election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, Republican officials in Georgia are proposing additional requirements for the state’s vote-by-mail process, despite no evidence of systemic fraud or irregularities.

Republicans are zeroing in on a plan to require a photo ID for ballots cast by mail. Voting rights activists and Democrats argue that the change isn’t necessary and would disenfranchise voters.

Biden beat President Donald Trump by just over 12,500 votes in Georgia, with Biden receiving nearly twice as many of the record number of absentee ballots as the Republican president, according to the secretary of state’s office. A recount requested by Trump was wrapping up and wasn’t expected to change the overall outcome.

Trump, who for months has publicly doubted the integrity of mail-in votes, has also made allegations of widespread fraud in the presidential race in Georgia.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff have rebuffed those claims, stating unequivocally that there is no evidence of systemic errors or fraud in last month’s election. Yet Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans who have been publicly lambasted by Trump, have joined the push to require a photo ID for absentee voting.

“Voters casting their ballots in person must show a photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting,” Kemp said in remarks streamed live online.

The photo ID idea has support among several members of the state legislature, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan. “I don’t think there should be different standards for the same process,” Dugan said in an interview.

Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in an interview with The Associated Press that currently anyone who knows someone’s name, address and date of birth can request an absentee ballot on that person’s behalf. She said that while signature matches provide some security for mail-in ballots, the process should be shored up.

One way to do that could be to require a person’s driver’s license number or a photocopy of a separate form of ID, she said.

“We need to secure all avenues that we can of absentee ballots so we never have a candidate run around this state again saying the election was stolen because of absentee ballots,” she said.

While Republicans seem ready to press forward with the photo ID requirement during the upcoming legislative session, Democrats and civil rights organizations are raising alarms.

“What is the problem that you’re trying to solve?” asked Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “The rule should be first, ‘Do no harm’ when it comes to democracy, and whenever there are more restrictions being put on a process, you run the risk of disenfranchising Georgia citizens.”

Democrats and voting rights groups have for years sought to decrease rejections of absentee ballots in Georgia, arguing that minorities have been disproportionately affected. Absentee ballots are sometimes rejected because signatures on the outer envelope are deemed not to match signatures in the voter registration system, or because the envelope is not signed at all.

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