November’s presidential election sparked widespread speculation regarding voter fraud as election laws and rules across the nation were put under a microscope.
In some cases, changes were being proposed almost immediately. That appears to be the case in Georgia, where the state Senate passed a new bill specifying a strict set of rules dictating which voters in the state are allowed to use absentee ballots.
Republicans recommend strict requirements
Of course, S.B 241 was a controversial bill given the partisan bickering that has long surrounded the issue of election integrity. The bill nevertheless sailed through the Senate on a vote of 29-20 and it is expected to clear the state House in the near future.
Assuming it passes, the bill would have a profound impact on Georgia’s election process, allowing absentee ballots to be cast only under certain conditions.
Among those eligibility requirements are being over the age of 65, residing away from the registered precinct, taking part in religious observations, or serving as the full-time caretaker for someone else.
For their part, state Republicans are celebrating the bill’s passage, touting its requirements as further security for future elections. Proponents hope the measure will help the state avoid situations like the aftermath of the 2020 election, which included higher-than-normal rates of mail-in voting due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic.
S.B. 241 is among multiple proposals that have arisen in response to voter-fraud concerns. Many in the GOP, including Gov. Brian Kemp, support at least moderate changes to the state’s current election laws.
Democrats express outrage
Democrats, on the other hand, are already sounding the alarm over the latest development. Some critics are going so far as to accuse Republicans of de facto voter suppression against people of color.
Other stipulations in the bill include a requirement that voters provide identification when registering for an absentee ballot and upon returning the ballot to the local precinct.
That requirement essentially amounts to a voter ID law, which has long been a topic of heated debate across the country.
State Sen. Elena Parent, a Democrat, was particularly harsh in her denouncement of the GOP-backed bill, stating:
The numbers to stop this bill may not be here in this chamber today. But I assure you there are many thousands of Georgians right now whose political spirit is awakened by disgust at modern-day voter suppression.”
State Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, a Republican, addressed the criticism with a statement of his own, insisting that the bill “is not preventing anyone from voting by mail-in absentee” but merely lays “the groundwork for relieving the stresses that we continue to see moving forward.”