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A new battle over election law brews in Georgia, this time because of voter difficulties

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  • Republican lawmakers in Georgia have passed a bill that would allow people to be removed from voter rolls due to “contestations to voter eligibility.”
  • Supporters of the bill say such challenges help prevent fraud, while opponents say the bill “could harm legitimate voters.”
  • The bill awaits Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature or veto.

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia has been rocked by furious battles over voting laws since Democrat Stacey Abrams’ narrow defeat to Republican Brian Kemp in the 2018 governor’s race.

The statewide brawl burst into the national consciousness in 2021, when Republicans – under pressure from Republican activists who supported Donald Trump’s false claims that he lost the 2020 election due to widespread fraud – rushed through a sprawling law imposing new restrictions on voters.

GEORGIA STATE SEC SENDS LETTER FROM LARRY DAVID ‘CURBING THE FOCUS OF YOUR ENTHUSIASM ON STATE ELECTION LAW

Now, just months away from a likely rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden, Georgia is once again tinkering with the state’s election laws. Last week, Republican lawmakers passed a new bill that would allow people to be removed from voter rolls by challenging their eligibility. He is awaiting Kemp’s signature or veto.

Georgia State Capitol

Since Democrat Stacey Abrams lost to Republican Brian Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial race, Georgia has fought furious battles over state election laws. (iStock)

Supporters say such challenges prevent fraud by eliminating duplicate records and removing voters who have left the state. Opponents claim they are misusing the data and will subject legitimate voters to legal ordeal.

Here’s a closer look at the problem:

WHAT IS AN ELECTION CHALLENGE?

Georgia, like other states, allows citizens to challenge an individual’s eligibility to vote, such as when they have personal knowledge of a neighbor leaving the state. Today, however, residents are increasingly challenging large numbers of voters using impersonal data, including the National Change of Address List maintained by the U.S. Postal Service. Others scour the lists looking for unregistered people at residential addresses. A Texas group called True the Vote challenged 364,000 Georgia voters ahead of two U.S. Senate runoffs in 2021. Since then, individuals and groups have challenged about 100,000 additional voters.

WHAT MOTIVATE CHALLENGERS?

Under federal law, Georgia can only remove a person from the rolls if they fail to respond to mail at their registered address and vote in two subsequent federal general elections. This process can take five years. Republican activists who support the challenge of a large number of voters believe that it is too long.

“These are voters who moved a few months or years before voting at their old address, who came back and showed a driver’s license that they knew they had not updated, said still live there and were given the opportunity to vote,” Mark Davis said. , a Gwinnett County resident who said he’s been looking through voter rolls for decades. He testified for Republicans at a Feb. 15 Senate hearing that helped shape this year’s legislation.

WHY DO SOME HAVE OPPOSITE CHALLENGES?

Opponents describe protesters from the mass electorate as “vigilantes” who upset the balance between updating electoral lists and guaranteeing everyone’s right to vote.

“There are people here who want to claim that we have a huge problem with our lists and that if there is a deceased person’s name on the lists, that represents a real security risk,” said the Rep. Saira Draper, an Atlanta Democrat who opposed the bill. bill, said last week. “But putting aside the scaremongering and leaps of logic, the facts reveal that actual voter fraud in Georgia is infinitesimal.”

Fair Fight Action, a group founded by Abrams that unsuccessfully sued challenges to True the Vote, says those challenges disproportionately target younger and poorer voters, including African Americans, because that they move more often. Lauren Groh-Wargo, interim CEO of Fair Fight, said she believes Republicans are trying to win elections in Georgia by driving away Democratic-leaning voters.

Opponents also note that the challengers include party activists and Trump allies who have supported Trump’s false claims. One of them is Brad Carver, head of the Georgia Republican Party’s Election Confidence Task Force and one of 16 Republicans who falsely claimed to be legitimate Trump voters in Georgia. Also serving is Cleta Mitchell, a former Trump lawyer who participated in the January 2021 phone call in which Trump urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in Georgia. involved.

“I can’t believe we still stoop to welcoming election deniers, conspiracy theorists and unindicted co-conspirators when it comes to electoral politics,” Draper said.

WHAT DOES THE NEW BILL DO?

The bill defines probable causes for removing voters from the voter rolls, including death, proof of voting or registration in another jurisdiction, a tax exemption indicating a primary residence elsewhere, or a nonresidential address. Most controversial is that the new bill states that the national change of address list can be taken into account, but not exclusively. Opponents believe this list is unreliable.

It’s unclear how exactly the law will change things, because the state has never issued guidelines to counties on how to handle the challenges. This means that some might accept them based on the probable cause laid out in the bill, while others might reject the mass challenges outright.

WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS SEEN BY OPPONENTS?

Opponents of the new bill say it could harm legitimate voters. For example, people sometimes live in a place of business that would be considered a non-residential address. Officials in Raffensperger’s office say there are more reliable types of information, such as driver’s license data, to confirm a voter’s eligibility.

Gabriel Sterling, Raffensperger’s chief operating officer, said in February that removing voters from voter rolls too aggressively could lead to lawsuits under the National Voter Registration Act.

“When you do loose data matching, you get a lot of false positives,” Sterling said. “When you get a lot of false positives…that’s when you get sued, and that’s when you have a lot of problems maintaining the list.”

The bill also states that homeless people must use the county’s voter registration office as their address rather than where they live. Opponents say it could make it harder for homeless citizens to vote because their registered polling place might be far away.

COULD CHALLENGING VOTERS BE SCARED?

Opponents say receiving a challenge letter in the mail is a frightening experience and voters may have to take the time to show up at a county meeting to argue for their eligibility.

A federal judge ruled in January, however, that the challenges did not constitute unlawful intimidation under the Voting Rights Act.

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ARE THERE GROUNDS FOR A LAWSUIT?

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has already threatened legal action if Kemp signs the bill.

The National Voter Registration Act says states and counties cannot make systematic changes to voter rolls within 90 days of a federal election. The Georgia bill would allow challenges to be accepted and voters removed from the rolls up to 45 days before the election.

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