Georgia elections head backs new voting law, with some concerns

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger praised the state’s new election law Monday but said he worried that it reduces his authority after last year’s contentious presidential election.

The law removed Raffensperger, a Republican who rejected claims of widespread fraud in Georgia, as chairman of the State Election Board, which will be empowered to take over troubled county election offices.

“The only concern is we’ll have to see how this works. I’ve never been a real believer and supporter of unelected boards and commissions, because at the end of the day, you end up with a lot of finger pointing and no accountability of who’s actually making the decision, particularly if the decision doesn’t work out too well,” Raffensperger said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Under the law, the State Election Board could take over elections in areas like Fulton County, the heavily Democratic center of metro Atlanta where voters waited in lines for hours during the June primary election. Raffensperger will become a nonvoting member of the board, replaced by an appointee of the Republican-led General Assembly.

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Raffensperger said the law will build trust in elections by requiring more identification of absentee voters. Absentee voters will be required to submit a driver’s license number, state ID number or other documentation, replacing ballot verification based on signatures.

“It’s going to restore confidence that everyone that is using the system has been verified with an objective measure, not a subjective measure,” Raffensperger said.

The election law also limits the availability of ballot drop boxes, sets a deadline to request absentee ballots 11 days before elections, and restricts outside groups from distributing food and drinks to voters waiting in line.

Raffensperger said the law will do more to expand access than limit it by requiring 17 days of early voting before general and primary elections, an addition of one mandatory Saturday statewide. Some counties already offered voting on two Saturdays.

But early voting will be reduced before runoffs, according to the law. Because runoffs will take place four weeks after general elections, the law only guarantees early voting in the last week before the runoff.

Raffensperger said four weeks is a “very tight timeframe” for runoffs, down from the state’s current nine-week gap between elections.

He predicted the law will survive the two federal lawsuits that have already been filed to stop it.

“I don’t believe they have any merit. I believe the law will stand up to scrutiny,” Raffensperger said.