Kemp signs new voter challenge and election security laws

Election changes approved amid heated 2024 presidential campaign
Gov. Brian Kemp answers questions from the media on Tuesday after he signed a $36.1 billion budget for fiscal 2025, which begins July 1. (John Spink/AJC)

Credit: John Spink/AJC

Credit: John Spink/AJC

Gov. Brian Kemp answers questions from the media on Tuesday after he signed a $36.1 billion budget for fiscal 2025, which begins July 1. (John Spink/AJC)

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed election-year changes into law Tuesday that empower voter eligibility challenges, require more audits and tighten ballot security ahead of this year’s contentious presidential campaign.

The three-bill package reflects Republicans’ latest efforts to revise election rules in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, when many supporters of Donald Trump said they mistrusted the voting process after he lost in both machine and hand vote counts.

The laws are the most sweeping revision of Georgia elections since the 2021 voting law, which primarily focused on absentee ballot regulations.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger praised Kemp for signing the election bill package, which includes many provisions sought by conservative activists during this year’s legislative session.

“Georgia is already a national leader in election integrity and security, and we congratulate Gov. Kemp and the General Assembly on the passage of the additional election integrity measures contained in this bill,” Raffensperger said.

Similar to the 2021 voting law, these new laws will likely be contested in court. The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has said it would sue over “baseless mass voter challenges.”

“This bill will require already overburdened election workers to spend time processing unnecessary voter challenges,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia. “As always, elected state officials should work to make voting easier and not more difficult for Georgia citizens. We are committed to protecting Georgia voters and will see the governor in court.”

Fair Fight, the voting rights group founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams, called the law Kemp’s “latest voter suppression bill.”

“Everything the GOP is doing is about the 11,000 votes Biden won by in 2020 — they’re focused on finding ways to shave off votes they don’t like to win and creating the conditions to overturn results they don’t like,” wrote Fair Fight CEO Lauren Groh-Wargo on X. “Using the same voter fraud lie of needing ‘clean voter rolls,’ echoing Jim Crow-era language, they’re using race-neutral language for a racially targeted suppression strategy.”

Kemp vetoed one election bill, Senate Bill 368, which would have prohibited foreign campaign contributions that are already banned by federal law and haven’t been found in Georgia.

The new laws solidify the ability of conservative activists to challenge the eligibility of voters who appear to have moved, a priority among Republicans who say outdated registrations could be used for fraud unless they’re more quickly removed. Few cases of illegal voting have been confirmed by State Election Board inquiries, and voting rights advocates say legitimate voters have been targeted by challenges.

Activists have contested more than 100,000 voter registrations since Georgia’s 2021 election law allowed any resident to challenge unlimited registrations within their counties. County election boards have rejected most of those challenges, often because they lack enough evidence to prove that a voter is no longer eligible to vote in Georgia.

The laws also satisfy conservative demands for more access for partisan election observers, visible watermarks printed on ballots and an eventual move to stop counting ballots based on computer QR codes, which are unreadable by the human eye.

In addition, digital ballot images will be available online for public review, fewer voting machines will be required in election day polling places, and third-party presidential candidates will automatically appear on Georgia ballots if they also are on the ballot in at least 20 other states and territories.

Georgia election bills

House Bill 974: Adds watermarks to ballots, displays ballot pictures online, requires more audits of statewide elections and uses technology to verify the accuracy of text on ballots.

House Bill 1207: Requires election workers to be U.S. citizens, allows fewer voting machines on election days, guarantees poll watchers close access and allows candidates to proof ballots for errors.

Senate Bill 189: Changes rules for mass voter challenges, eliminates computer QR codes from ballots, adds ballot security procedures and eases requirements for third-party presidential candidates to appear on Georgia ballots.