Free and fair elections are the bedrock of American democracy. Though, the current state of our elections is an assault on that very democracy. Across our country, election reform bills are being lobbied, drafted, and passed by state legislatures. Though, it is no secret that there has been an enormous amount of outrage and backlash by those in opposition. However, it is important to actually take the time and thoroughly read through the provisions being suggested as the mainstream media has failed to echo the truth within these bills. Many of the current election reform bills help to verify, protect, and secure one of our most sacred rights as Americans, the right to vote. Georgia’s House and Senate omnibus bills are prominent examples of election reform bills that aim to protect and secure, not suppress, your vote.
As Crossover Day for the 2021 Legislative Session occurred last Monday, so did many protests calling out for our leaders to vote against the current election bills. Unfortunately, those who oppose H.B.531 and S.B.241 do not understand what these bills do, but more importantly, they do not understand what these bills don’t do.
While both bills include extensive provisions, there are a few key ones to point out. First, S.B.241 eliminates No-Excuse Absentee Voting. Despite being a contentious topic among legislatures and constituents alike, this provision actually helps to eliminate fraud and ensure that your vote is counted. With voting by a mail-in absentee ballot, the voter has no guarantee their vote actually was counted. It is only true that the voter knows their ballot was received upon returning the ballot but there is no guarantee your vote is in fact counted. Alternatively, you can physically go to your designated polling precinct and vote in person and put your ballot into the scanner. Once this is done, a voter knows that their ballot will be counted.
S.B.241 also eliminates the power of the State Elections Board to make emergency rules without oversight from the General Assembly. This helps to eliminate entering into Consent Decrees/Settlement Agreements, which was an issue in 2020 when the Democratic Party entered into a Settlement Agreement with the Secretary of State. Though constitutional officers need flexibility during times of emergency, that power is not meant to be absolute, and this provision helps to maintain integrity in the elections process by proper oversight. Lastly, S.B.241 allows for the removal of county elections officials for malfeasance, misfeasance, or inability to perform their duties. This is a step in the right direction.
On the House side, H.B.531 prohibits private funding of county elections offices. This helps to prevent undue influence from outside sources, such as the “Zuckerberg Money” that flowed into key battleground states to help create more ballot drop-box locations. H.B.531 also eliminates jungle primaries and creates uniform procedures for third parties who mail out absentee ballot applications. Further, this bill provides for greater transparency by allowing early scanning of absentee ballots and creating a bi-partisan ballot duplication process for ballots that need to be adjudicated. Currently, this process is done by only one person with no oversight or transparency.
Both bills provide for an extra step in voter identification before casting an absentee ballot. A poll done by the Atlanta Journal Constitution showed that 74% of voters supported this initiative. Cracking down on ballot harvesting is also a top priority. H.B.351 provides for criminal penalties for ballot harvesting while S.B.241 prohibits third parties from observing an elector fill out an absentee ballot. To be clear, these bills do not suppress voters. In fact, they do just the opposite. Both omnibus bills actually help to ensure that when you do vote, your vote is not going to be diluted by an illegal ballot and that you are voting in the most secure way possible. Securing a valid vote is at the top of our legislature’s agenda as evident by the provisions slated to be added to the Georgia Election Code. Despite rampant and false accusations of voter suppression, the only thing these bills are suppressing is fraud.
As more reports continue to surface about individuals being charged with voterfraud, it is clear that serious election reform is needed if we have any chance of having a free and fair election again. By regulating absentee ballot applications, when and where early voting will take place, and drop boxes locations, voter integrity is the highest priority. Georgia’s omnibus bills aim to restore faith back into the elections process. Now it is time for more states to do the same.
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True the Vote (TTV) is an IRS-designated 501(c)3 voters' rights organization, founded to inspire and equip volunteers for involvement at every stage of our electoral process. TTV empowers organizations and individuals across the nation to actively protect the rights of legitimate voters, regardless of their political party affiliation. For more information, please visit www.truethevote.org.