Georgia Republicans introduce legislation to restrict voting and block localities from defunding the police

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   Last month, Georgia Republicans introduced House Bill 531. Voting rights activists have criticized the bill for creating undue obstacles for voters without making elections any more secure.


   The bill in question aims to require ID for absentee ballots and limit drop boxes. 3 million Georgians voted early this year, which was especially relevant in light of the ongoing pandemic. Republican losses in Georgia and in the presidential election had GOP members, including Senators Matt Brass, Brandon Beach and Burt Jones, claiming voter fraud, despite repeated debunking of this claim. 


   Initially, the bill also aimed to end Sunday voting, but after many critics pointed out that this would disenfranchise Black voters who utilize Souls to the Polls, which is an effort to help voters get to the polls after church, counties will now be required to offer early voting “on either the first Saturday or Sunday of the three-week early voting period, as well as the following Saturday.” This would still be a dramatic change from the current law, which allows weekend voting at any time during the early voting period. 


   The restrictions remaining in the bill could still disproportionately affect Black voters. Democrat fRepresentative from Columbus, Calvin Smyre said that “This is a step in the wrong direction. Early voting limitations affect a lot of working people and a lot of people of color.”


   Under the new legislation, early drop boxes would need to be placed inside early voting locations, which would make them less useful for voters who are trying to limit their contact with other people due to the coronavirus. At least one drop box would be required in each county but no more than one per every 200,000 voters. 


   To vote by mail, voters would have to submit a driver’s license number, state ID number or photo ID when requesting a ballot and when returning the ballot. 


   Other notable changes would be reducing the time between elections and runoffs as well as prohibiting food and drinks to be delivered to voters in line, even though some voters in Atlanta waited up to 11 hours in line for the November election.


   As multiple recounts and audits showed, no evidence of widespread voter fraud was apparent in the presidential election or in the Senate runoff. 


   Certain Georgia legislators are also aiming to block cities and counties from “defunding the police”, after Atlanta and Athens debated plans to redirect police spending last year in reaction to the nationwide protests for racial justice. 


   This would restrict cities’ and counties’ autonomy on local funding decisions.