Our View: Fixes in search of a problem?

Georgia’s Gold Dome. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
Georgia’s Gold Dome. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

SUNDAY ISSUE: PROPOSED LEGISLATION TO TIGHTEN VOTING IN GA.

Investigations of Georgia’s voting procedures during the November elections found no significant evidence of voter fraud here.

None.

Yes, allegations or suspicions aplenty were aired – sometimes loudly – and lawsuits claiming voter fraud cluttered courthouse dockets in Georgia and elsewhere around the country.

In the end, old-fashioned sleuthing – based on facts and not politically powered fiction – showed there was no sizable wrongdoing in Georgia.

So, it’s fair to ask why is the Georgia General Assembly now considering legislation that, if passed, would make it significantly tougher to cast an absentee ballot, or change other aspects of voting here? This even as GOP elected leaders have forcefully argued Georgia’s voting system is not lacking in security or accuracy.

Eight bills introduced Monday in the Georgia Senate would:

  • Require a form of ID to be filed along with an absentee ballot
  • Ban ballot drop boxes
  • End automatic voter registration
  • Prohibit new Georgia residents from voting in runoffs
  • Require an excuse to vote absentee
  • Mandate monthly updates to election officials of voters who have died.
  • Ban nonprofits from mailing ballot applications to voters
  • Expand access to poll watchers

The end result some GOP lawmakers are seeking via this package of legislation appears to be an overreach, to put it charitably. One that flies against oft-expressed beliefs at the Gold Dome that state government should be limited in scope and reach.

It’s believed that a good portion of the legislative push is merely politics, with lawmakers filing bills largely to placate constituents who believe significant voter fraud took place. We’d strongly suggest that the risky moment in which we’re all now living should preclude such moves.

Only the proposal to require some form of photo ID, or ID number, on absentee ballot requests seems to warrant serious consideration as to its merit versus the burden imposed on voters.

The Senate bills come after an election where many voters chose absentee ballots in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that’s hammered Georgia. Voting by mail or drop box understandably seemed safer.

Some Republican lawmakers answer that many voters have lost confidence in the election system.

It doesn’t seem coincidental that these concerns arose after GOP candidates lost races for President of the United States and Georgia’s two Senate seats.

Available, legitimate facts indicate that result was powered by voter intentions, motivations and raw turnout – and not shortcomings or outright fraud in Georgia’s elections apparatus.

A poll conducted in late January for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed 58% of respondents do not believe there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Only 38% believed significant fraud occurred.

At times, AJC editorials have been critical of aspects of the elections system overseen by Georgia’s Secretary of State office. We’ve likewise written here more recently to defend Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as he came under tremendous pressure to yield to forces contending that now-former President Donald Trump had actually carried – and not lost – Georgia. Those seeking to improperly twist Raffensperger’s arm included Trump himself.

It was a long, tough election season that many politicians and other state officials rightfully want to bury and forget. Voters barraged with texts, phone calls, campaign flyers and absentee ballot applications would likely agree.

In the end, voters made choices – as they have done since the birth of our democratic republic. Acting on that cherished right should be something all of us of any party support.

Similarly, voters of any political leaning should back an elections system that is secure and consistently records accurate results. We’ve seen no evidence that Georgia’s voting apparatus has significantly failed to meet that standard.

Baseless assertions should not be allowed to upend sound policy. Not in a state that’s as influential as Georgia has become.

Not liking an election’s results does not equal fraud. Nor should it. And it should not lead to ill-conceived changes that are likely to hinder Georgia’s voters, or our state’s reputation as a desirable place to live, work and do business.

The Editorial Board.

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