Georgia GOP senator, running for lt. governor, wants to ban election drop boxes

Lieutenant Governor candidate and Georgia Senate Pro-Tem Butch Miller speaks at the Georgia GOP State Convention in Jekyll Island, Georgia on June 5th, 2021. Nathan Posner for the Atlanta-Journal-Constitution

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Lieutenant Governor candidate and Georgia Senate Pro-Tem Butch Miller speaks at the Georgia GOP State Convention in Jekyll Island, Georgia on June 5th, 2021. Nathan Posner for the Atlanta-Journal-Constitution

Lieutenant governor candidate and state Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller filed legislation Monday to eliminate election drop boxes made popular by Georgians trying to avoid having to vote in person during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press release, sent by the Senate Press Office, Miller, who is facing an opponent endorsed by former President Donald Trump, called the banning of drop boxes the “next step in our fight to restore Georgians’ faith in our election systems.”

“Drop boxes were introduced as an emergency measure during the pandemic, but many counties did not follow the security guidelines in place, such as the requirement for camera surveillance on every drop box,” Miller said in the release. “Moving forward, we can return to a pre-pandemic normal of voting in person. Removing drop boxes will help rebuild the trust that has been lost..”

Former President Donald Trump and his supporters have for a year promoted false claims that the 2020 election - which Trump lost - was stolen. Since then, they have pushed for changes in election laws “to restore confidence in elections” without acknowledging their own role in diminishing confidence in elections.

State election officials have said there was no indication of fraud in 2020 after three ballot counts and multiple investigations. In last year’s presidential election, Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump in Georgia by about 12,000 votes.

Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled Legislature approved an overhaul of the state’s voting laws that regulate the use of ballot drop boxes — a practice brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and approved by the Republican-led State Election Board last year to accommodate a surge in absentee voting during the 2020 elections.

Miller voted for the overhaul. But now he faces state Sen. Burt Jones, a Jackson Republican who was endorsed by Trump, in the GOP lieutenant governor primary.

Georgia’s new voting law allows the drop boxes with tight restrictions: They must be located inside early voting sites, available only during in-person voting hours, and shut down when early voting ends the Friday before an election.

Every county is required to install at least one drop box, but no more than one for every 100,000 active registered voters.

Miller’s proposal, Senate Bill 325, would remove the use of election drop boxes completely.

An analysis of election data from the secretary of state’s office by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Georgia Public Broadcasting found that ballot drop boxes saw heavy usage in mostly Democratic metro Atlanta counties during their rollout last year, far more than in rural Republican areas of Georgia.

Democratic Party of Georgia Executive Director Scott Hogan called Miller’s latest proposal an “attack on absentee voting.”

“Butch Miller’s proposal to blow up our elections based on lies is part of his sad, desperate attempt to win over far-right voters after Donald Trump endorsed his primary opponent,” Hogan said. “We already know Butch Miller is terrified of Georgia’s diversifying electorate – now, he’s trying to silence the voters of color who elected Democrats last cycle by banning one of the most popular ways they chose to cast their ballots.”

The proposed legislation is the latest in a string of partisan moves made by Miller, a Gainesville Republican, and announced by the taxpayer-funded Senate Press Office while he still holds his leadership role as the chamber’s second in command. Senate rules don’t require a president pro tempore to step down if he or she is seeking higher office, and Miller has said he does not plan relinquish his leadership role.

Last month, Miller filed legislation that would eliminate the state income tax — which brings in more than half of all revenue for k-12 schools, colleges, public health, criminal investigations, prisons, and mental health programs. His legislation doesn’t say how the state would replace the $14 billion in annual lost revenue.