Series of election-reform bills survive Georgia Legislature's crossover deadline

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About a dozen election-reform bills passed one chamber in the Georgia General Assembly by the crossover deadline this week.

The most extensive reforms could come from Senate Bill 241 and House Bill 531, which would reduce absentee ballot voting.

States have filed more than 500 election-related bills since the November presidential election, data from the Brennan Center for Justice shows.

Georgia was among a handful of the states at the forefront of election fraud allegations in the race between former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden. Several questions and allegations after the November election centered around absentee ballots. Trump supporters sued the state over its signature matching process, which election officials have said could use a revamp.

SB 241 would eliminate Georgia’s no-excuse absentee ballot voting and limit access to the alternative ballot to certain people. HB 531 would reduce the number of absentee ballot drop boxes. Both bills would replace absentee ballot signature matching with an identification requirement.

HB 531, a 66-page bill, cleared the House on March 1 and will be considered by the Senate Committee on Ethics. It also would eliminate jungle primaries, reduce weekend voting and block private funding of elections, among other things.

Democrats, civil rights advocates and former President Jimmy Carter said the legislation would roll back voters’ rights snd legalize voter suppression. Some opponents argue the changes could cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars each election cycle. Proponents of the bills, mostly Republicans, said the bills would increase election integrity and streamline the voting process.

If SB 241 becomes law, only voters who are age 65 or older, absent from their precinct, observing a religious holiday, living overseas or in the military or caretakers and essential workers would be able to cast an absentee ballot. It also would establish a voters’ tip line, among other things. The measure cleared the Senate, 29-20, on Monday and will be reviewed by the House’s Special Committee on Election Integrity.

Some of the other election-related bills that made it past crossover day in the Georgia Legislature would duplicate changes in HB 531 and SB 241, including allowing election offices to start counting absentee ballots before election day, more access for poll watchers and changes to the release and monitoring of election records.

Senate Bill 67, Senate Bill 72, Senate Bill 74 Senate Bill 202 and Senate Bill 253 all were adopted before the crossover deadline.

Senate Bill 62 would require each ballot be labeled with its intended precinct’s name. It cleared the Senate, 37-15, on Monday. Senate Bill 89 would allow Georgia’s State Election Board to take over low-performing county election offices. It was approved by the Senate, 35-18, on Feb. 24. Both bills now will be reviewed by the House’s Special Committee on Election Integrity.

Monday was the Georgia Legislature’s crossover deadline. Bills that did not pass either chamber by Monday likely are dead for the remainder of the session.

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