The Georgia Senate approved a bill Tuesday requiring more identification for absentee voting, the first elections measure to clear either legislative chamber as lawmakers consider new voting rules after last year’s heated presidential race.
Voters would have to provide a driver’s license number, state ID number or a copy of photo ID when requesting absentee ballots, according to Senate Bill 67. Currently, absentee ballots are verified based on voters’ signatures and registration information rather than an ID.
The Senate passed the bill mostly along party lines, 35-18. It will next be considered by the state House of Representatives.
The effort to require ID for absentee voting has strong support among the General Assembly’s Republican majority in both legislative chambers. Democrats oppose the legislation, saying it would create a burden for Georgia voters who lack a driver’s license or access to a copy machine needed to submit a photo ID.
Providing the facts and context that help readers understand the current debate over voting laws is a priority for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For a better understanding of the issues driving Legislative action, click on these links.
• 15 headlines that explain the current debate
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Larry Walker, said all but 3% of Georgia voters already have a driver’s license number or state ID number on file, meaning they wouldn’t have to provide a copy of photo ID to vote absentee. Photo ID is already required of in-person voters.
“It’s not about disenfranchising voters. It’s not about overburdening the electorate. It’s about efficiency and security,” said Walker, a Republican from Perry.
State Sen. David Lucas, a Democrat from Macon, said the ID requirements would make it harder for people to vote absentee, especially those who would have to make a copy of photo ID to request an absentee ballot.
“Let’s make no mistake about what this bill is about: The election did not turn out the way you wanted it to,” Lucas said, addressing Republican senators in a tearful speech. “We’re perpetuating this big lie of fraud.”
Over 1.3 million of Georgia’s 5 million voters cast absentee ballots in the November presidential election, which Democrat Joe Biden won by fewer than 12,000 votes against Republican Donald Trump.
The absentee ID bill is part of a package of four bills supported by Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan that passed the Senate on Tuesday.
The Senate also approved bills preventing the public release of any election results until the total number of ballots is reported, requiring election officials to begin scanning absentee ballots eight days before election day, and updating records of who voted within 30 days after an election.
“Last month I committed that I would only support commonsense election reforms and would work to modernize our election procedures to keep pace with changes in the way Georgians vote,” Duncan said. “I am focused on maintaining confidence in our electoral process and making it easy to vote and difficult to cheat.”
Duncan and Georgia election officials have said there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud, and the election results were validated by multiple recounts and audits.
These measures advanced before other proposed voting restrictions, including a broad elections bill under consideration in the state House.
That legislation, House Bill 531, would eliminate Sunday voting, limit ballot drop boxes, impose an absentee ballot request deadline, and require ID both when requesting and returning absentee ballots. The House Election Integrity Committee could vote on that bill as soon as Wednesday.
Nearly three-quarters of Georgia voters said they support proposals requiring photo ID or other documentation to cast an absentee ballot, according to a poll conducted in January for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Voting proposals advancing in the Georgia General Assembly
Senate Bill 67: Requires a driver’s license number, state ID number or photo ID when requesting an absentee ballot
Senate Bill 40: Begins opening and scanning of absentee ballots eight days before election day
Senate Bill 184: Requires records of who voted to be updated within 30 days after an election.
Senate Bill 188: Prevents the public release of election results until the total number of ballots cast is posted on the secretary of state’s website
Pending House committee vote
House Bill 531: Eliminates Sunday early voting, limits ballot drop boxes, requires ID to vote absentee and sets absentee ballot request deadlines
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