Jimmy Carter speaks out against Georgia voting restriction bills

Former president Jimmy Carter prior to the game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Cincinnati Bengals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on September 30, 2018. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Former president Jimmy Carter prior to the game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Cincinnati Bengals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on September 30, 2018. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that Georgia legislators shouldn’t “turn back the clock” by passing bills that would reduce voting access.

Carter spoke out after the state Senate voted Monday to pass legislation that would end no-excuse absentee voting and require ID from absentee voters.

“While states must safeguard the integrity of the election process to prevent fraud, this should not be at the expense of voters’ access to the polls. They should proactively expand voter access through safe, secure administrative practices,” said Carter, a Democrat who served as president from 1977 to 1981.

Carter, 96, said he knows the dangers of voting fraud after ballot-stuffing aided his opponent in an election for state Senate in 1962. At least one dead person and man confined to federal prison had cast ballots. A judge ordered a new election, which Carter won.

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But Carter said modern Georgia elections are protected by a ballot paper trail and post-election audits, which were used to conduct a manual recount that confirmed Democrat Joe Biden had defeated Republican Donald Trump in Georgia by about 12,000 votes.

“As our state legislators seek to turn back the clock through legislation that will restrict access to voting for many Georgians, I am disheartened, saddened, and angry,” Carter said. “Many of the proposed changes are reactions to allegations of fraud for which no evidence was produced.”

Carter also said critics of absentee voting shouldn’t depend on the 16-year-old findings of a commission he co-chaired with former Secretary of State James Baker, which at the time found that mail-in ballots “remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”

Since then, Carter said vote-by-mail practices have improved and new technologies have been developed. Carter said he now believes that voting by mail can be conducted securely.

“We must not promote confidence among one segment of the electorate by restricting the participation of others. Our goal always should be to increase, not decrease, voter participation,” Carter said.