Opinion: Misleading narratives abound about Ga.’s new voting law

FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2021, file photo, voters wait in line to cast their ballots in Georgia's Senate runoff election in Atlanta. The sweeping rewrite of Georgia's election rules that was signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp Thursday, March 25, 2021, represents the first big set of changes since former President Donald Trump's repeated, baseless claims of fraud following his presidential loss to Joe Biden. Georgia’s new, 98-page law makes numerous changes to how elections will be administered, including a new photo ID requirement for voting absentee by mail. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2021, file photo, voters wait in line to cast their ballots in Georgia's Senate runoff election in Atlanta. The sweeping rewrite of Georgia's election rules that was signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp Thursday, March 25, 2021, represents the first big set of changes since former President Donald Trump's repeated, baseless claims of fraud following his presidential loss to Joe Biden. Georgia’s new, 98-page law makes numerous changes to how elections will be administered, including a new photo ID requirement for voting absentee by mail. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

Credit: Brynn Anderson

Credit: Brynn Anderson

The mainstream media’s narrative about Georgia’s elections legislation, the Election Integrity Act, which expands voting, has been completely partisan and wrong.

In 2020, we saw unprecedented changes to our state’s elections that ultimately eroded faith in the process. I know firsthand because I was a candidate in the two largest elections in our state’s history.

Georgia made national news with problems during primary voting, transitioned to new voting machines and drop boxes in the midst of a pandemic, learned of legal settlements that created mistrust of absentee ballots, then saw unsolicited absentee ballot applications mailed out statewide – just to name a few.

As a result, voters’ trust in our elections is at a record low. Thankfully, our state legislature did not bend to the media’s narrative and has taken prudent steps to strengthen our state’s elections.

12/16/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia —  U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler speaks with members of the press after participating in early voting at Chastain Park Gymnasium in Atlanta’s Chastain Park neighborhood, Wednesday, December 16, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
12/16/2020 — Atlanta, Georgia — U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler speaks with members of the press after participating in early voting at Chastain Park Gymnasium in Atlanta’s Chastain Park neighborhood, Wednesday, December 16, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Restoring faith and confidence in our elections isn’t a partisan issue and the majority of Georgians demanded more integrity, as data shows. In a late January The Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, 55% of Georgians said they support more safeguards in our elections, including 74% support for requiring a valid state identification when casting absentee ballots. That same margin of support exists for state IDs across the country.

Yet, while Georgia lawmakers listened to their constituents, Washington politicians are ignoring the will of the people in a partisan power grab. H.R. 1 – the “For the People Act” – would take constitutional powers from the states in conducting elections. This includes banning states from requiring voter identification, while allowing ballot harvesting.

And, amid an epic crisis at the Southern border, H.R. 1 would eliminate felony penalties for illegal immigrants who vote in our elections. At nearly 1,000 pages, it’s a massive partisan takeover of our most-important democratic institution. We must reject the liberal talking point that equates commonsense voting integrity measures to voter suppression.

But it’s not just Washington liberals who are moving quickly to take power from the people. When Big Tech executives like Mark Zuckerberg pour hundreds of millions of dollars into pivotal local boards of elections that could potentially influence outcomes, one has to question liberal tolerance if a conservative donor had done the same. At the same time, Big Tech monopolies censored conservatives on social media, and the mainstream media suppressed news coverage that could have impacted elections. Americans are waking up to this threat and polling shows growing concerns of bias in mainstream media and Big Tech influence on our elections.

Stepping back from the media narrative, the reality is that Georgia’s Election Integrity Act was based on expanding access and confidence. Expanding early in-person voting hours, establishing a hotline to report voter fraud, implementing state ID requirements for absentee ballots (it already applies to voting in person) and eliminating subjective signature matches, extending the use and uniformity of ballot drop boxes, printing ballots on security paper, requiring electors to vote in their own precinct, preventing election boards from accepting outside money, establishing a nonpartisan state elections board chair, and preserving Sunday voting all make sense.

You might ask why liberal groups are fighting steps to reduce interference and promote a stronger democracy. Perhaps it’s because once elections are secure, the focus will go back to the policies that impact Georgians’ lives every day and to holding politicians accountable for failed policies.

We’ve already felt the impact of Washington’s expanding role in our daily lives with rising gas prices, lost jobs, closed schools, open borders and falling support for safer communities.

The consequence of a loss of faith in elections extends beyond those who already vote. Half a million Georgians who voted in the November election, did not vote in the January runoffs – and 339,000 of those typically vote Republican.

Additionally, 2.5 million registered Georgians haven’t voted in recent elections, with another 2 million who are still unregistered. The sense that their vote doesn’t count – or that their voice isn’t important -- leads millions of our neighbors to stay home. We now have more safeguards to ensure they are not discouraged or mistrustful.

Rather than engage in partisan, mainstream narratives, the legislature focused on strengthening integrity for all voters. As a result, we now have practical solutions that restore accountability, extend access and expand transparency for every Georgia voter. In a state that is now a key battleground, helping more people vote — with more confidence — is something we can all be proud of.

Businesswoman Kelly Loeffler is a former U.S. Senator.

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