Senate passes election bill over objections from Democrats

Senate Bill 463 would require election officials to add precincts, poll workers or voting equipment in future elections to address long lines.
Senate Bill 463 would require election officials to add precincts, poll workers or voting equipment in future elections to address long lines.

The Georgia Senate Thursday approved a measure designed to address long lines on Election Day.

Senate Bill 463 would require election officials to add precincts, poll workers or voting equipment in future elections to address long lines. It requires county election superintendents to take action if voters wait in line for more than an hour before checking in to vote.

The bill drew sharp criticism from Senate Democrats. Among other things, they feared it would sow confusion among voters who wind up in new precincts – perhaps during this year’s hotly contested November general election.

"We're changing the rules of the game, right here in the middle," said Sen. Harold Jones, D-Augusta. "We don't want to interfere with the current election process."

Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon, the bill's sponsor, disputed that interpretation, saying precincts would be split beginning in the next election cycle. And he said splitting precincts would make voting easier for Georgia residents by creating more polling places closer to where they live.

“Democrats have complained historically about precinct closures,” Kennedy said during the Senate debate. “Now they complain about precinct expansion. How can you argue both ways?”

The Senate voted 35 to 19 to approve the legislation, which now advances to the state House.