Our View: The risk of ill-considered voting law changes


As state lawmakers sprint toward the end of a legislative year, they should keep top of mind that Georgia’s national profile is unusually high at this moment.

That prominence can work for our state’s continued benefit – or toward our detriment.

The outcome depends, in large part, on the actions taken by our lawmakers when it comes to voting rights.

Yet, amid that backdrop, the legislature seems intent on making it harder to vote, particularly by absentee ballot.

Ill-considered policy changes could potentially strip some citizens of their cherished rights – rights that people of all creeds and colors have defended through our nation’s history.

The idea is being driven by an unprecedented collection of widely held yet misinformed and misguided passions around what happened – or did not – in Georgia’s last round of elections.

Despite what many sincerely believe, no substantive evidence of widespread fraud has emerged from November’s presidential elections. The falsehoods spread about a “stolen” election remain just that – no matter how many times these tales are retold.

These unsubstantiated claims have led us to where we are now, with the Georgia General Assembly considering a dozen election bills that cleared at least one chamber by last Monday’s Crossover Day.

The proposed changes, among other things, would end no-excuse absentee voting, restrict weekend voting and place new limits on ballot drop boxes. Two of the most-stringent ideas, which would have eliminated ballot drop boxes altogether and ended automatic voter registration failed to advance, which is good news.

Even so, the Legislature is still considering controversial matters, such as reducing weekend voting to two days, or making unlawful the simple and kind gesture of offering drinks or food to voters waiting in polling place lines.

There is also the idea of moving drop boxes inside, which has concerned some given the fears that will remain with us still, even as more and more people receive their COVID-19 inoculations.

Voter participation should not be subject to whims or unreasonable or unnecessary hindrances.

After all, an informed and engaged populace is a vital element in America’s success formula.

We would hope Georgia lawmakers believe that, too.

Rather than succumbing to unproven claims of widespread election fraud, lawmakers should find it within themselves to speak truth to those in power – namely the voters who put them into office.

Part of that will involve acknowledging that they see no problems with the portion of November’s ballot that returned them to elected office.

It is worth repeating as many times as necessary and wherever needed that state officials – notably Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans – oversaw the election in which the GOP’s presidential candidate failed to carry Georgia.

They have repeatedly attested, at considerable political or even personal risk, that no significant election fraud took place here last November.

Yet, lawmakers still seem intent on solving a problem that’s not been shown to exist.

Making the process of voting more difficult is likely to prove unnecessarily problematic for many voters – across party lines. That should be unacceptable for both fair-minded Georgians and their elected representatives.

Also, enacting unduly restrictive legislation will elevate Georgia in the national conversation – and not in a good way.

That could have unanticipated, negative consequences for our economy and the hard work the state and others have done to emerge as a globally recognized magnet for people and investment dollars.

We should not take that risk.

Given all this, Georgia lawmakers must tread exceedingly lightly in making voting law changes of the kind that are likely to come back and bite us all.

The Editorial Board.