Many changes to Georgia election laws advanced by GOP lawmakers

End of automatic registration and fewer voting machines stall for now
Crystal Greer, co-founder of Protect the Vote GA, speaks at a Black Voters Matter press conference at the Capitol in Atlanta on Wednesday, February 28, 2024. (Arvin Temkar /

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Crystal Greer, co-founder of Protect the Vote GA, speaks at a Black Voters Matter press conference at the Capitol in Atlanta on Wednesday, February 28, 2024. (Arvin Temkar /

From eliminating ballot bar codes to adding audits, Georgia election laws could change in many ways this year, with 10 bills advancing in the Republican-run General Assembly ahead of the presidential election.

Heading into the final weeks of Georgia’s legislative session, it’s unclear how far lawmakers will go.

Several of the most contentious proposals — ending automatic voter registration at driver’s license offices, decreasing the number of voting machines, allowing public ballot inspections — failed to clear the House or Senate before a Thursday deadline, but they could still be attached to other legislation.

Most of this year’s bills tinker with election administration rather than voting access, a contrast with Georgia’s 2021 law that targeted absentee voting, drop boxes and more voter ID.

Without much controversy, lawmakers have prioritized tweaks including increasing audits to two statewide races in each election, placing security watermarks on ballots, creating a website to view ballot pictures, and adding criminal penalties for misleading voters with computer-generated impersonations of candidates.

Republicans pushing election proposals say they want to improve “voter confidence,” a moving target among conservatives who distrust elections since Donald Trump’s narrow loss in Georgia in 2020. Allegations of fraud have been repeatedly debunked, but legislators keep changing the rules in response to their constituents’ suspicions.

“We’re working hard to make everything as transparent as possible to bring back the confidence in our elections,” said state Sen. Rick Williams, a Republican from Milledgeville and the vice chairman of the Senate committee that handles election bills. “We have got to have the confidence back for everybody to say, ‘Yes, it was a fair, honest election with one person, one vote.’ ”

Voting rights advocates, during a rally last week with the group Black Voters Matter at the Capitol, called for lawmakers to focus on issues such as health care and abortion access rather than election legislation.


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“The system’s not broken. Why are we trying to fix it?” Crystal Greer of Protect the Vote GA asked after the rally. “The amount of laws that are coming through that impact the way we vote is ridiculous. We see these bills undermining democracy.”

Even though several election bills stalled, they could still be revived before the General Assembly adjourns in less than four weeks.

Republicans are considering merging election proposals into a large omnibus bill, as they did when passing Georgia’s last major voting law three years ago. Ideas that never got a vote in the House or Senate could be included as part of that bill.

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

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Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

Bills that would end using QR codes to count paper ballots and investigate Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger when there are election problems passed the Senate, but it’s uncertain whether those measures will move forward in the House.

“What we’re seeing this year is a combination of a lot of good ideas and some bad ideas from the past that are being presented,” said House Governmental Affairs Chairman John LaHood, a Republican from Valdosta. “We’ll have to see what we end up with.”

Democrats have fought Republicans on major election changes but joined them on bipartisan proposals, such as seeking additional audits and stronger penalties for election interference.

“They’re trying to defeat us, and this is not going to work,” said state Rep. Rhonda Taylor, a Democrat from Conyers. “There are more pressing issues around here. The time that they’re using to reconstruct our election laws, they could be using to expand Medicaid or provide proper education in schools.”

Georgia election bills

Passed the House or Senate:

  • Ban counting votes from QR codes printed on ballots (SB 189)
  • Allow investigations of the secretary of state (SB 358)
  • Audit more elections (HB 977)
  • Criminalize deepfake impersonations of candidates (HB 986)
  • Add security watermarks to ballots (HB 976)
  • Post pictures of ballots on a state website (HB 974)
  • Ban ranked-choice voting (SB 355)
  • Allow candidates to check ballots for accuracy before they’re printed (HB 1207)
  • Remove probate judges from managing elections in small counties (SB 212)
  • Prohibit foreign campaign contributions (SB 368)

Passed a committee:

  • End automatic voter registration at driver’s license offices (SB 221)
  • Increase penalties for interference with election workers (HB 1118)
  • Allow election officials to use fewer voting machines on election day (HB 1370)
  • Make original paper ballots available for public inspection (HB 426)
  • Allow small children and people with disabilities to move to the front of the line to vote (HB 559)
  • Require more accounting and tracking when election officials touch ballots (HB 17)