HomePoliticsA new election law battle is raging in Georgia, this time over...

A new election law battle is raging in Georgia, this time over voter challenges

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia has been rocked by fierce fighting over election laws since the Democratic Party Stacey Abrams‘small loss for the Republican Brian Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial race.

The statewide brawl entered the national consciousness in 2021, when Republicans — under pressure from Republican activists pushing Donald Trump’s false claims that he lost the 2020 election due to widespread fraud — passed a sweeping law that would create new imposed restrictions on voters.

Now, with just months to go before a likely rematch between Trump and… President Joe BidenGeorgia is once again tinkering with state election laws. Just last week, Republican lawmakers passed a new bill that would allow people to be removed from voting rolls by questioning voter eligibility. We are waiting for Kemp’s signature or veto.

Advocates say such challenges prevent fraud by rooting out duplicate records and removing voters who have left the state. Opponents claim they are misusing data and will put legitimate voters through the legal wringer.

Here’s a closer look at the problem:

What is a voter challenge?

Georgia, like other states, allows citizens to object to an individual’s eligibility to vote, such as when they have personal knowledge of a neighboring country leaving the state. Now, however, residents are increasingly challenging large numbers of voters through the use of impersonal data, including the National Change of Address list maintained by the US Postal Service. Others comb through the rolls looking for people who are not registered at a residential address. A Texas group called True the Vote challenged 364,000 voters in Georgia ahead of the two 2021 U.S. Senate elections. Since then, individuals and groups have challenged about 100,000 more.

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WHAT MOTIVATES CHALLENGES?

Under federal law, Georgia can only remove someone from the rolls if they do not respond to a mailing to their registered address and then fail to vote in two subsequent federal general elections. That process can take five years. Republican activists who support challenging large numbers of voters say that’s too long.

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

WHY DO SOME CHALLENGES FACE?

Opponents describe the mass voter challengers as “vigilantes” who upset the balance between updating voter rolls and ensuring everyone has the right to vote.

“There are people here who want to pretend that we have a huge problem with our dockets and that having a dead person’s name on the dockets is a real security risk,” said Rep. Saira Draper, an Atlanta Democrat who told the law was. Bill said last week: “But put the fear mongering and logical leaps aside, and the facts show that actual voter fraud in Georgia is infinitesimally small.”

Fair Fight Action, a group founded by Abrams that unsuccessfully sued over the True the Vote challenges, says such challenges disproportionately target younger and poorer voters, including African Americans, because they are more likely to move. Interim Fair Fight CEO Lauren Groh-Wargo said she believes Republicans are trying to win Georgia’s elections by displacing Democratic-leaning voters.

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Opponents also note that challengers include Trump party activists and allies who 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 involved is Cleta Mitchell, a former Trump lawyer who took part 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.

“I can’t believe we’re still bending over backwards to accommodate election deniers, conspiracy theorists and unindicted co-conspirators when it comes to election policy,” Draper said.

WHAT WOULD THE NEW LAW 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 controversially, the new bill says that the list of national address changes can be taken into account, but not exclusively. Opponents say the list is unreliable.

However, it’s not clear how the law will change things, as the state has never provided guidance to counties on how to handle challenges. That means some may accept them based on the probable causes set out in the bill, while others may reject mass challenges outright.

WHAT DO OPPONENTS SEE AS ​​PROBLEMS?

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

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

“If you match single data, you get a lot of false positives,” Sterling said. “If you get a lot of false positives … then you get sued, and that’s when you have a lot of problems maintaining the list. .”

The bill also says homeless people would have to use the county voter registration office as their address instead of where they live. Opponents say this could make it more difficult for homeless citizens to cast their ballots because their registered polling place could be far away.

CAN CHALLENGING VOTERS BE OUTREACHED?

Opponents say receiving a voter’s letter in the mail is a frightening experience, and voters may have to make time to appear at a county meeting to defend their eligibility.

However, a federal judge ruled in January that challenges do not amount to illegal intimidation under the Voting Rights Act.

ARE THERE REASONS FOR A JURISDICTION?

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has already threatened a lawsuit if Kemp signs the bill into law.

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

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