Georgia elections chief seeks to end no-excuse absentee voting

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Wednesday asked Georgia state representatives to end no-excuse absentee voting, a proposal that would limit the voting method over 1.3 million people used in the presidential election.

Raffensperger wants to reduce absentee voting after promoting it during the coronavirus pandemic, when he mailed ballot applications to active registered voters before the primary election.

In last month’s election, about one-quarter of Georgia’s 5 million voters cast absentee ballots as Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump.

“It makes no sense when we have three weeks of in-person early voting available. It opens the door to potential illegal voting,” Raffensperger told the House Governmental Affairs Committee. “From a logistical challenge, it’s a tremendous burden on our counties” that run elections.

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Absentee voting became politicized after Trump frequently suggested it wasn’t trustworthy, causing Republicans to move toward voting early or on Election Day. About 34% of Biden voters submitted absentee ballots, compared with 18% of Trump voters.

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Georgia law has allowed anyone to cast an absentee ballot without having to give a reason since 2005.

Before this year, absentee voting was more often preferred by Republican and older voters, accounting for about 5% of ballots cast in prior elections. Absentee voting gained popularity in the pandemic as more people sought to avoid human contact and the risk of illness.

Democrats say they’ll oppose cutbacks on absentee voting because it will force more voters to wait in long lines at crowded polling places following precinct closures across the state in recent years.

“This will disenfranchise a lot of voters because they wouldn’t want to come out and stand in line,” said state Rep. Rhonda Burnough, a Democrat from Riverdale. ”If you don’t want to have a no-excuse-based system for absentee voting, what are we going to do about all the lines and the perception that Georgia doesn’t know how to run an election?”

Raffensperger’s proposal will be considered by the Republican-controlled Georgia General Assembly when it convenes in January. The Senate Republican Caucus announced earlier this month that it also wants to end no-excuse absentee voting.

A handful of states currently restrict absentee voting to people who provide a valid excuse, such as old age, disability, sickness or travel. But the majority of states allow anyone to use an absentee or mail-in ballot for any reason.