By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,
Republicans of Georgia’s General Assembly continue to make increasingly restrictive changes to voting laws in their state. On the last day of Black History Month, Georgia Senators passed SB 221 in the Senate Ethics Committee, which entirely removes the use of ballot drop boxes.
This bill began as an initiative to revise the language on absentee ballot applications and mandate audits following all state-wide primaries or elections. It quickly became legislation for Republican voter suppression efforts.
The legislation would require election superintendents to be a citizen of the United States. It also would revise how electors can be challenged, change rules for determining residence for voter registration, alter the latest reporting time for required election night reporting and more.
A portion of the bill reads that “proof of ownership or rental of a post office box within a particular jurisdiction shall not constitute sufficient grounds to establish a person’s residency within that particular jurisdiction.”
There are nine Republicans in the ethics committee and four Democrats.
Sens. Max Burns (Ga.-23), Rick Williams (Ga.-25), Marty Harbin (Ga.-16), Jason Anavitarte (Ga.-31) and Steve Gooch (Ga.-51) sponsored the bill.
Fair Fight Action, a voting rights organization, the ACLU of Georgia, Common Cause Georgia, and Progress Ga. hosted a press briefing before the hearing for SB 221.
“This bill subverts The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 NVRA, attacks local
administrators, threatens county officials with felonies and prison time and would make bad-faith voter challenges even easier,” said Esosa Osa, deputy executive director Esosa Osa for Fair Fight Action, in a statement. “SB 221 is a conspiracy theory enshrined in policy. Georgia Republicans, who touted the effectiveness of elections last year and pushed to limit challenges, have surrendered to extremists and renewed attacks on our democracy by giving unprecedented power to conspiracy theorists.”
Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Burns also recently worked on SB 222, which addresses election interference through funding from nongovernmental agencies.
“We must work together to limit the influence of third-party groups on our local and state elections,” said Burns in a statement. “Public officials have a duty to the people of Georgia that third-party groups do not. Elections are the backbone of our democracy and we must ensure that they are held and conducted fairly and ethically.”
SB 222 had a third reading and passed the Senate on March 2.
Tashi McQueen is a Report For America Corps Member.